House Bill 718, which was signed into law over the summer, amends the revised statute relating to schools’ crisis management and response plans, placing special attention on school shooting preparedness drills. “The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) has had a well-written crisis plan with annual in-service training and drills for many years,” says Danae Columbus of OPSB. OPSB’s current Emergency Procedures Guide details responses that are specific to incidents such as a stabbing or shooting on campus. Former law already required public schools to develop and implement crisis plans; House Bill 718 prevents schools from relying primarily on such school board policy. Instead, the law requires that the school principal prepare the plan jointly with law enforcement, fire, public safety and emergency preparedness officials, instead of merely seeking input from these entities.

The law also provides for a safety drill within the first 30 days of each school year and submission of a written report on the drill to the local superintendent, defined as the school’s CEO, who may issue comments on the report. Charter schools are not exempt from the requirements, and the law requires The State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, in consultation with the Nonpublic School Commission, to adopt rules requiring nonpublic schools to address school safety, including school shootings and any other emergency situation.

Schools such as Lusher Charter School have already implemented improvements for this school year, including door locking, an electronic security system and text messaging communication. “All staff members attended a training on the revised safety plan at the beginning of the school year. The school will be conducting simulated lockdown drills during the year as well,” states Sheila Nelson, principal of Lusher’s kindergarten through fifth grade programs. Even with schools implementing their own crisis preparation improvements, OPSB continues to support the effort. OPSB Security Chief BJ Bilbo scheduled an in-service training for principals and staff and will also meeting with the NOPD, EMS and NOFD. “Students will also participate in this process through practice drills which will better educate them on the codes and procedures to follow,” Columbus explains.