Schools need to do better in emergency preparedness, OEA review finds

09/20/2016 02:42 PM

FRANKFORT — Most teachers in Kentucky consider the schools in which they work safe, but more can be done to ensure that schools have the proper policies in place to stay that way, according to testimony Tuesday by officials at the Office of Education Accountability.

OEA analysts gave the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee an overview of their findings after looking into the state’s Safe Schools Program.

One item mentioned for possible attention by the General Assembly and the Kentucky Department of Education was ensuring that schools comply with safety measures like supervising students between classes and developing emergency crisis plans.

Of 173 school districts self-reporting their compliance with the state’s school safety standards, 172 reported that they adequately controlled access to the building, for example.

“However, KCSS (Kentucky Center for School Safety) school-safety assessments found that 66 percent of the schools lacked staff and visitor badges or used badges inconsistently,” OEA Research Manager Bart Liguori said.

“Another 54 percent had security and building accessibility issues. During OEA site visits, we also noted instances of schools not having evacuation routes posted in all rooms as well as evacuation routes only having a primary route with no secondary route. When it came to drill requirements, only one district had reported on their assurance that each school had not practiced earthquake drills, but 27 percent of the school-safety assessments reviewed did not provide the required emergency drills.”

OEA recommended that the Department of Education consider adding safety compliance measures to its statewide compliance monitoring process to resolve those deficiencies.

Sen. Mike Wilson, a Bowling Green Republican and co-chairman of the Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee, said he was stunned by figures presented by OEA staff.

“With the climate that exists out there today in the United States and things that we’re experiencing with our schools, you have a very important role and I appreciate the audits, but those are a little bit disturbing to me,” he said.

Rep. Derrick Graham, a Frankfort Democrat who chairs the House Education Committee, said schools should hire a more racially diverse staff of teachers to give minority students role models.

Black students were about three times as likely to break the law in school last year and about almost twice as likely to break school policies, according to statistics provided by OEA.

Graham said there are more good kids than bad kids, but many simply need a leader to follow.

“You wouldn’t believe how much that would help impact and reduce the level of problems that we’re having in the schools, and so that is a call out to the superintendents and the encouragement that the commissioner can provide, and he’s been saying many of those things, that we have to have a school climate and a school district and a school community that looks like the community,” Graham said.

“And if you try to keep doing the same things, you’re going to get the same results.”

OEA also recommended ironing out overlapping statutes and taking another look at juvenile justice reforms passed in 2014, among other possible actions.


Subscribe to email updates.

Subscribe and get the latest political intelligence delivered to your inbox.