Teacher gun bill
Among 1,176 bills introduced during the Alabama Legislature’s general session from early February to late May, 114 local bills were passed, including a bill sponsored by state Rep. Johnny Mack Morrow, D-Red Bay, to arm teachers and volunteers in Franklin County.
The bill, which only applies to the Russellville and Franklin County school systems, makes it optional for teachers to become reserve police officers or sheriff’s deputies. The legislation assigns the responsibility of training and supervising the volunteers to local law enforcement.
Supporters of the teacher gun bill argued some school systems in Alabama cannot afford SROs and that there are schools in rural communities 30 minutes away from law enforcement agencies.
Although both school systems in Limestone County provide some form of mental health counseling to its students, city and county school officials are evaluating ways to improve school security through secured classrooms and entryways, badge identification for visitors and video surveillance.
Limestone is among the few school systems in the state that have obtained enough funding to provide certified resource officers at every site within the system, while Athens City Schools has a regular police presence and a centrally located police headquarters only minutes from every campus. Currently, the city school system does not have an SRO program.
Limestone County Schools already has certified and trained resource officers assigned to its six high schools and the Career Technical Center through a 50-50 funding partnership with the County Commission. Beginning in August, the 13 school sites in the Limestone system will have an SRO on each campus, compared to last year when seven of the 13 campuses were staffed full time with officers supervised by the Sheriff’s Office.
Steve Croley, a resource officer for the past 10 years at West Limestone, Tanner and Clements high schools, said during a law enforcement roundtable held earlier this month that SROs can help keep a campus safe while also forming a trust with the students and being an extra resource on campus.
“Like many adults, some students view law enforcement officers solely as enforcers of the law,” said Croley in his SRO biography. “By establishing a daily rapport with their school's SRO, students not only gain positive role models, but also a better understanding … of the many other duties and responsibilities (of resource officers).
“SROs will gain a better perspective of the young people in their schools. By carefully assessing the needs of individual students, SROs are more aware of the development of unhealthy or destructive behavioral patterns.
In many cases, it is possible through early intervention, to redirect negative behaviors before they cause a student to be referred to the criminal justice system.”