Alabama’s school safety plans in focus following Texas mass shooting
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - After the devastating shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, questions about school safety and mental health continue to surface. In the past few years, the Alabama Legislature has allocated over $3 million for mental health services for Alabamians and its students.
“There will be a ripple effect throughout the community, in the community’s mental health and the mental health of the children in that school system,” said Kimberly Boswell, commissioner for the Alabama Department of Mental Health.
State leaders in Alabama want to reassure families that student mental health continues to be a top priority.
“One of the ways to kind of address the mental health issue for kids is to try and make sure that kids are really connected to a community, to their peers, to their family,” said Boswell.
In 2010, the Alabama Department of Mental Health created the school board mental health collaboration that in part provides at-risk kids with in-school therapy. The collaboration also includes youth mental health first aid.
“Identifying signs and symptoms and knowing how to help your friend because we all know that kids are more likely to talk to their peers than they are adults,” said Boswell.
The other important topic for leaders is school safety.
“You can’t ever stop a violent situation like that,” said Rep. Terri Collins. “But you can be best prepared for it.”
Chaired by Collins, in 2017 the Legislature created the Emergency Task Force on School Safety and Security. And in 2018 Gov. Kay Ivey convened another task force, and both looked at improving school security.
“We’ve done several things that are already in place, each system has a school safety coordinator, and they have drills that they do each year,” said Collins.
Through Ivey’s task force and money from the Legislature, the mental health program continues to grow. And Collins says reports on the programs are done routinely in case there is a need for an upgrade.
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