Bill would require Georgia schools to drill for armed intruders

Legislation brought for Gov. Brian Kemp now awaits his signature
The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office conducts a training exercise at Mill Creek Middle School in Woodstock on June 8, 2022. The training exercise was an active shooter drill to prepare officers to respond to school shootings. The Georgia Senate passed a bill Monday aimed at improving active shooter drills. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office conducts a training exercise at Mill Creek Middle School in Woodstock on June 8, 2022. The training exercise was an active shooter drill to prepare officers to respond to school shootings. The Georgia Senate passed a bill Monday aimed at improving active shooter drills. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Gov. Brian Kemp will get to sign legislation he sought that would require schools to prepare for armed intruders.

House Bill 147 passed the Senate with broad bipartisan support Monday after Democrats tried and failed to amend it.

Kemp had asked Rep. Will Wade, R-Dawsonville, to introduce the legislation, which encourages anti-gang training for educators. HB 147 also “modernizes” safety protocols, said Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick, who carried the bill in the Senate.

Georgia State Sen. Mike Hodges, R-Brunswick, speaks about HB 147, a school safety bill, at the Senate in Atlanta on Monday, March 13, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Teachers, students and other school personnel already must do safety drills. The legislation would add school administrators to the list of mandatory participants. And in a nod to increasing gun violence, it would require “intruder alert” drills in all public schools by Oct. 1 each year.

The legislation would allow schools to force students to participate even if their parents object.

Sen. Jason Esteves, D-Atlanta, a former teacher and Atlanta school board member, said such drills can trigger trauma in children. He asked for an amendment to require that schools let parents opt their children out of the drills. The legislation says schools “may” let parents decline to have their children participate. A handful of Republicans broke with their party to vote for the amendment, but it still failed.

Georgia State Sen. Jason Esteves, D-Atlanta, speaks about HB 147, a school safety bill, at the Senate in Atlanta on Monday, March 13, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

Other failed amendments tried to delete the anti-gang language. The bill would encourage Georgia colleges to teach prospective educators “multidisciplinary best practices” for safety and for “identifying and deterring” youth gangs. It also would call on the state to establish such training for qualified educators who want it.

Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, voted for the failed amendments along with most other Democrats, saying HB 147 offers only “illusory” protection in schools and “highlights our failure” to control access to guns through universal background checks and other measures.

Like nearly every other Democrat — and all Republicans — Parent, who is the minority caucus chair, also supported the measure in the final vote. It passed 52-3.

Georgia State Sen. Elena Parent, D-Atlanta, speaks about HB 147, a school safety bill, at the Senate in Atlanta on Monday, March 13, 2023. (Arvin Temkar / arvin.temkar@ajc.com)

Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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Credit: Arvin Temkar/AJC

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