Committees to review school safety

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The Connecticut school shooting is sparking two reviews of campus safety in Louisiana.

Louisiana House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, announced in December that the House Select Committee on Homeland Security would review laws and procedures involving school safety.

On Friday, Gov. Bobby Jindal formed a separate study committee to identify needed improvements at schools and colleges following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

“We are working in concert with the Legislature. We wanted to take immediate steps as an administration and we’ll be happy to get ideas from the Legislature to make sure there is a safe learning environment for students,” Jindal said in a prepared statement.

Kleckley, through his spokesman, said each branch of government needs to play a role in creating safe schools. He said the separate reviews may result in different views and answers to different questions.

He said the homeland security committee still will meet Jan. 17 at the State Capitol.

“The goal here is to do everything we can to ensure our children are free to learn, play and grow safely,” Kleckley said.

Twenty children and six adults died at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. Adam Lanza allegedly shot and killed his mother before driving to the school and opening fire. He later took his own life. According to some news reports, Lanza entered the school by breaking a window.

Public school principals in Louisiana are required by law to prepare crisis management and response plans that detail security measures in the event of a violent incident or emergency.

The plans are supposed to be reviewed annually. Many schools also have security officers.

Kleckley said he wanted to see if there are any lessons that can be learned from the Sandy Hook shooting and applied to Louisiana schools.

The committee’s chairman, state Rep. John Schroder, said the goal will be to determine what policies are in place.

Schroder’s wife is a public schoolteacher.

“Our focus is to make sure we heighten awareness and do everything we can to keep the campuses safe,” he said.

Schroder, R-Covington, said he has not been in contact with the Jindal administration about the governor’s study committee.

State Department of Public Safety and Corrections Secretary Jimmy LeBlanc and State Police Col. Mike Edmonson will co-chair the study committee that Jindal formed through an executive order to “identify and implement improvements.”

The four-page order directs state agencies to participate in the study group. The order does not indicate when meetings will begin. However, recommendations requiring legislative action are directed to be completed for consideration in the legislative session that starts April 8.

LeBlanc’s spokeswoman said he was unavailable for comment Friday.

Edmonson said the study committee will be more in depth than the legislative committee review. “This is the perfect opportunity to work with school systems across the state,” Edmonson said.

As the father of four children, Edmonson said he wants to ensure that children return home safely from school.

He said law enforcement needs to know the layout of a school, from where the cafeteria is to where the library is located. He said drills will be held at schools in the next year to simulate shooting scenarios.

Edmonson said a similar drill was held at the state Capitol.

“In Louisiana, we’re so good at preparing for the worst. Let’s do this with our schools,” Edmonson said.