Columbus, GA – Today, Governor Brian P. Kemp spoke to local and state public safety personnel, school resource officers (SROs), other law enforcement officers, emergency management personnel, teachers, school administration officials, and school counselors at the 2022 Georgia School Safety & Homeland Security Conference, hosted by the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency (GEMA) in partnership with the Georgia Department of Education. Having started in 2009, the three-day event is the state’s premier and longest-running conference for school safety.
In addition to encouraging greater partnership among all the stakeholders represented, Gov. Kemp also announced the following major updates to reinforce school security in Georgia:
- The Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC) - an executive branch agency - voted last Friday to award $2.6 million from the State Law Enforcement Training Grant Program to the Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) to enhance its SRO training. These funds will increase instructor capacity and further grow the number of courses available for local SROs.
- The Council will award over $182,000 in federal grant funds to purchase 210 tactical kits for SROs as part of the Single Officer Response to an Active Threat training.
- The Council will allocate $1 million in Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds to support state-wide school safety efforts. These dollars can be spent on regional school safety trainings, safety operation quick reference guides, to provide for professional development of SRO instructors, course expansions, and more.
- The Council will release a competitive grant opportunity next month to award $4.5 million in Law Enforcement Training Grant Funds to local and state law enforcement agencies. These funds will be spent on training for school safety, use-of-force and de-escalation training, and mental health resource needs.
- The Council is partnering with GEMA, GPSTC, and the Georgia Department of Education in two federal grant applications requesting $3 million to provide additional training for school staff and SROs and to improve school climate.
Applications for these grants are expected to go live in the next several weeks, at which point they will be posted on the Current Grant Opportunities section of the CJCC website.
A list of prior work and implemented policies on the issue of school security and safety under Gov. Kemp's leadership as well as an excerpt of his remarks to the conference attendees are listed below.
About the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council:
The CJCC is an executive branch agency established to build consensus and unity among the State's diverse and interdependent criminal justice system components. You can learn more about this statewide body here.
Prior direct actions related to school safety include:
- In 2019, Governor Kemp set aside $69 million for school security grants, ensuring every public school in Georgia received $30,000 to implement school security measures.
- Governor Kemp has consistently dedicated funds to the APEX program to focus on mental health in Georgia schools.
- The Georgia Public Safety Training Center will train over 300 School Resource Officers (SROs) in the field this year. They are currently reviewing basic SRO curriculum considering recent events in Uvalde, Texas. Any necessary protocol updates will be included in the next SRO class and will continue in the future.
- GPSTC will be offering an additional 6 Active Shooter classes for SROs in partnership with the ALERRT active shooter training model.
- In 2019, Governor Kemp signed House Bill 514 into law, creating the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission. The Commission helped inform the Mental Health Parity Act that lawmakers passed and Governor Kemp signed into law this year. The Act includes robust reforms and resources to address mental health challenges in Georgia.
- In 2019, in coordination with GEMA and the state Department of Education, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council received a million-dollar, three-year grant to enhance Georgia’s School Safety Center. That funding went to the central school safety website which provides resources for training, school safety plan templates and guides, improving the school threat assessments and safety template, and increasing access to training in de-escalation and detecting danger, bullying and cyberbullying, suicide and mental health awareness, and supporting high-risk students.
- In March and June of 2022, Governor Kemp hosted round table discussions focused on school safety with state and local law enforcement, education leaders, and elected officials. He plans to continue this model and host additional discussions to help inform policy efforts regarding school safety, with the next roundtable scheduled for July.
Gov. Brian Kemp Remarks to Georgia School Safety & Homeland Security Conference Attendees
I don’t have to remind this group of just how important this conference and others like it are. We were all reminded of it just a month ago by the heartbreaking events in Uvalde, Texas.
On that painful day, what every single one of us thinks about on a regular basis with dread, what we pray will never happen in one of our schools, the evil that we work every single day to prevent struck that small-town community.
Like many of you, Marty and I are proud parents. And like so many other Georgians, we dropped our three daughters off at school each day, hoping and believing that we would see them again each afternoon. One of our daughters has even served in the classroom as a first-grade teacher.
Marty and I know firsthand that no parent or loved one should have to worry that their child or a teacher may not come home from school. So as both a father and governor, the thought of something like what happened in Uvalde happening in one of our schools is my biggest concern, one that I know each of us shares.
As I’ve always said, and as our own state Constitution says, protecting our citizens is the paramount duty of government. No matter which zip code our students and teachers are in, their safety is of the utmost importance.
That’s why we’re all here, that’s why you’ve taken the time to participate in this multi-day conference, and it’s why my administration has made securing our schools and improving Georgia’s mental health system a top priority since day one.
In my first budget, we allocated $69 million for school safety grants to provide every single school in Georgia $30,000 to improve the security of their campuses and students.
In 2019, we also created the Behavioral Health Reform and Innovation Commission, which informed the Mental Health Parity Act that I signed into law earlier this year. This historic bill includes robust reforms and resources to address mental health challenges in our state. Since that first year, we’ve also provided further funding to the APEX program to focus on mental health in our schools.
And in 2019, in coordination with GEMA and the state Department of Education, the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council also received a million-dollar, three-year grant to enhance Georgia’s School Safety Center.
That funding has gone to the central school safety website which provides resources for training; school safety plan templates and guides; improving the school threat assessments and safety template; increasing access to training in de-escalation and detecting danger, bullying and cyberbullying, and suicide and mental health awareness; and supporting high-risk students.
These were important steps to take in ensuring the maximum safety for our students, ones that we will build on together.
But as I shared a few weeks ago with a group of school resource officers, we know that where these issues are most directly addressed and felt is not on the state level, but on the ground in our communities, in our classrooms, and in our very own homes.
That’s why I’ve held five education roundtables in the first half of this year alone, two devoted specifically to the issue of school safety.
At each of those discussions – and rest assured, there will be more, including one already scheduled for next month – I asked our partners from around the state to consider how we can best work together to ensure students are protected, both from dangers outside and within the school itself.
I also look forward to working with all of the different school systems and law enforcement entities in this room as we continue to work on this issue in the weeks, months, and years ahead.
Everyone has a role to play and is doing their part. A great example is GEMA’s unveiling of the updated School Safety Plan template during this very conference, in conjunction with the Department of Education and the University of Georgia’s Carl Vinson Institute of Government. As you know, all schools are required to have a safety plan in place in the event of violence like we saw in Uvalde.
The Georgia Public Safety Training Center’s recent efforts are another example of state partners ready, willing, and able to partner with you to better protect our students. GPSTC will train over 300 school resource officers this year alone, and I’m happy to report they are also reviewing the basic SRO curriculum, in light of the events in Uvalde, to see if and how they need to be updated.
The Training Center will also be providing an additional six Active Shooter classes for SROs this year, in partnership with the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training (or ALERRT).
As you prepare for the back-to-school season, I also encourage your local school systems to take advantage of our state’s Site Threat Access and Response Audit resources, which identify vulnerabilities at campus facilities and improve safety.
As you’ve likely heard this week, the Intel Unit of the Georgia Homeland Security Division can also assist schools and school systems with threats and ensuring public safety throughout the state.
Please don’t hesitate to utilize these and other partners and to engage with your local leaders on this issue. We are all working for the same cause – to build a safer, stronger Georgia and communities where no parent or loved one has to worry when they drop a child or teacher off at school.
And so, today I am happy to announce for the first time publicly even more resources to supplement and further this good work.
Thanks to Director Jay Neal and members of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, the CJCC voted last week to award $2.6 million from the State Law Enforcement Training Grant Program to GPSTC to enhance its SRO training. These funds will increase instructor capacity and further grow the number of courses available for local school resource officers.
The Council will also allocate over $182,000 in federal grant funds to purchase 210 tactical kits for SROs as part of the Single Officer Response to an Active Threat training, as well as $1 million in Byrne Justice Assistance Grant funds to support our state-wide school safety efforts.
These dollars can be spent on regional school safety trainings, safety operation quick reference guides, to provide for professional development of SRO instructors, course expansions, and more.
On top of this, the Council will release a competitive grant opportunity next month to award $4.5 million in Law Enforcement Training Grant Funds to local and state law enforcement agencies. These funds will be spent on training for school safety, use-of-force and de-escalation training, and mental health resource needs.
CJCC is also partnering with GEMA, GPSTC, and the Georgia Department of Education in two federal grant applications requesting $3 million to provide additional training for school staff and SROs and to improve school climate.
While these are the latest measures we’re taking to ensure our children’s safety, I can assure you they will not be the last. I will work with anyone, even in the midst of a heated election cycle, to protect our students.
Because as we all can agree, protecting our children is more important than politics! It rises above partisanship, it is too important to make a political football, and it is an issue that can and should unite every single one of us.
With that in mind, I’ll close in the same way I started, by thanking all of the brave officers here today and the school leaders for what you do.
This is a working summer for all of us!
We’re working to build on prior successes in strengthening our school security and safety.
We’re working to strengthen the partnerships we’ve built across the state and on every level.
And we’re working to make sure that when Georgia’s roughly 1.7 million students return to the classroom in the Fall, that every school they enter is a truly safe and secure place for growth and learning.
As we carry on that work, please know that Marty, the girls, and I will continue to pray for you and your families. We will always have your backs in protecting the greatest of life’s gifts – our children.
May God bless you, may He continue to keep our children and classrooms safe, and may He bless those who work and learn there in all the years to come.