Governor Kay Ivey announced the Alabama Sentry Program which provides for an additional security measure in schools that do not have a School Resource Officer.
The program would be voluntary which will permit administrators in schools, without an SRO, to maintain a firearm on campus in a secured safe in order to be prepared to respond to an active shooter situation.
Administrators would be required to successfully complete training created and certified by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency. Unlike teachers, school administrators have complete access to their schools and are responsible for the safety of all students at the school, not an individual classroom.
“The Governor’s SAFE Council recommended adding more School Resource Officers throughout our state, a solution that I support, and will work with the legislature to implement. However, until we have a concrete plan to increase the number of SROs, we must provide a way for schools to protect their students in the upcoming school year. I have created the Alabama Sentry Program to provide additional security measures for our children, and to utilize the current summer break to train those who volunteer to be a sentry,” Governor Ivey said. “The Alabama Sentry plan is a reasonable and measured approach to provide an additional tool for schools without a resource officer. With the unfortunate continued occurrence of school violence across our country, we cannot afford to wait until the next legislative session.”
Administrators who meet the requirements would be able to "use lethal force to defend the students, faculty, staff, and visitors of his or her school from the threat of imminent bodily harm or death by an armed intruder," according to a memo signed by Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.
“Schools are sanctuaries of learning and, as such, they must be safe places for our children to learn, knowing that the adults around them are watching out for their safety and security. With recent events around our country, now is the time to act,” said Alabama Superintendent of Education, Eric Mackey. “The Alabama Sentry Program is one way for us to put more safety resources in schools without having to seek new funding. This is truly a step in the right direction. I look forward to working with Secretary Taylor and the entire SAFE Council to implement this program.”
A school administrator must seek the approval of their local superintendent, local school board, and county sheriff to participate in the Sentry Program.
In order for administrators to qualify, the sentry program requires the following:
- hold an Alabama school administrator certificate
- have a concealed-carry pistol permit
- work at a school that doesn't have a school resource officer
- pass drug screening, mental-health assessment, and stress test
- be sworn in as a reserve deputy county sheriff
- undergo mandatory training that is designed by Alabama Law Enforcement Agency
- be subject to random drug screenings, training recertification, annual mental health and stress assessments
The program doesn't include teachers.
"Unlike teachers, school administrators have complete access to their schools and are responsible for the safety of all students at the school, not an individual classroom," according to the governor's press release.
If a school shooting occurs, the sentry is to wear a designated bullet-proof vest that would be easily identifiable so responding officers would be able to recognize it.
School sentries will be required to keep their firearms in a secured weapon storage system. School sentries, or their employing board of education, shall be responsible for acquiring and maintaining a weapons-storage system, an approved weapon, ammunition, and a specially-designed bullet-proof vest.
Attorney General Steve Marshall supports Gov. Ivey's safety plan. “I share Governor Ivey’s concerns that every effort be made to ensure that all Alabama’s schools have the ability to protect our children by quickly responding to threats to their safety,” said Attorney General Marshall. “Under the voluntary Sentry Program, specially trained administrators in schools without SROs will be ready to meet armed intruders with lethal force in order to defend students, faculty, staff, and visitors. I appreciate Governor Ivey allowing my office to review her new Sentry Program and believe it represents an effective way to bolster school safety in every community.”
WHNT News 19 asked the Governor's office how many schools would be eligible for this program. A spokesperson told us they're unaware of the number of schools in Alabama without school resource officers, adding that the SAFE council was working to compile that information. The Governor's office said no additional money will be spent by the state even though it is unaware of how many schools could participate in the program.
We spoke with Ivey's gubernatorial opponent Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle about the plan. Battle says he believes the school safety plan seems to have been "hastily put together, just in time for the primary." He believes that school safety issues needs be addressed collaboratively with local school officials.