Safety plans being ?reviewed'

By Greg Gelpi

A fight broke out involving at least a dozen students at North Clayton High School Friday and the school had a school safety plan, but so far the plan has not been approved by the state. In fact, none of Clayton County's 53 schools have had their safety plans approved.

The state made it law that every school have a school safety plan in 1999. All Clayton County public schools have safety plans, but of the more than 1,300 schools with plans approved by the Georgia Emergency Management Agency, none are from Clayton County.

"Our plans are being reviewed by (GEMA)," Jack Warren, the school system's administrative assistant for policies/legislation, said. "We will be revising them as needed. We have a number of them that are approved."

Warren points out all county schools submitted plans to GEMA for approval and he said they meet all the requirements for approval.

Lisa Ray, a spokeswoman with GEMA, said no Clayton County school safety plans have been approved by GEMA.

The Clayton County Emergency Management Agency, instead, is reviewing the school safety plans before sending them to GEMA for approval, Ray said.

"This is more rare than common, but we welcome it," she said. "They've given their stamp of approval to eight."

Those plans are being passed to GEMA for the state agency's approval.

The plans will be reviewed again in the spring for the coming school year.

These plans are for responses to more than just criminal activity, Warren said. The plans are also for severe weather and other emergencies. As part of National Severe Weather Week, the school system is rehearsing its safety plans with fire and tornado drills.

School safety plans weren't an issue at Friday's school "brawl," Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said. There is no set procedure in place for "pandemonium" as that at North Clayton.

Student resource officers and special tactical units train and rehearse procedures for specific problems, such as bomb threats or gunmen. Friday, though, didn't require specialized procedures to be implemented.

Tossing a plastic bottle around during a school assembly at North Clayton led to fights breaking out in the school gym and cafeteria. Clayton County police arrested 12 students involved in the fight.

"Our objective at that point is just to get in there and restore order," Turner said.

The school was placed in lockdown to prevent the "all-out fight" from escalating, he said.

"When the school has that much pandemonium going on, the school goes into lockdown," Turner said.

A male teacher suffered an injury to his arm, but no other injuries were reported.