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Mississippi Leaders Look To Improve School Safety

By Jeffrey Hess | Published 11 Jan 2013 03:58pm | comments
Lt governor Tate Reeves.

The safety of Mississippi schools is quickly becoming a top priority for officials at all levels of state government. MPB's Jeffrey Hess reports efforts to tighten school security follow the deadly massacre in Newtown Connecticut.

Lt. Governor Tate Reeves is floating two new plans that he believes will help improve school safety.

One plan would provide a 10-thousand dollar matching grant that schools could use to place rained and armed law enforcement officers on roughly 750 of the state's more than 1-thousand schools.

"We want to insure that these are trained law enforcement officers. So we would require that they have gone through the Mississippi law enforcement officers training academy," Reeves said.

Reeves also wants Mississippi courts to report to a national criminal-information database when a person is committed to a mental institution or is found guilty of a crime because of insanity.

Democrats in the Capitol also want to turn the focus on Mississippi's mental health treatment program.

Democratic Representative Steve Holland of Plantersville says the state needs a comprehensive plan for treating the mental health problems of children and teens.

"We put legislation in place in 2011 that was well into the process of developing a statewide mental health plan that would not only include the public sector but the private sector, the school system and everything. And it just died off. So the law is still on the books. We obviously need to breathe some life into that," Holland said.

Mississippi agency heads are already acting to improve school safety outside the legislature.

Robert Latham, the executive director of the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, has formed a task force with several other departments to develop response plans to school shootings.

"What if a worst case scenario happens? Does everybody that is responding know what the layout of the school is? Do they have drawings of the school? Do they know what the school procedures are? So that they truly are an asset to help, and not hinder, the response and recovery effort," Latham said.

Latham says schools appear eager to be involved because many of the smaller rural districts do not have the resources to develop and implement these plans on their own.

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Lt governor Tate Reeves.


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