Alabama Governor Kay Ivey set into motion the Alabama Sentry Program on May 30 which will provide an additional security measure for schools that do not have a School Resource Officer (SRO). Ivey’s signature on an executive memorandum on that day, established the program and directed the State Department of Education and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency to implement it.
According to a press release from the Governor’s office, the Alabama Sentry Program is a voluntary program 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. The Sentry Program will require that the administrator successfully complete training created and certified by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). 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.
Public schools in Barbour County, which include Barbour County Schools and Eufaula City Schools, have a SRO at the high schools, but not in schools with lower grades.
The Sentry Program will be established immediately, through administrative action, under existing law according to a press release from the Governor’s office. The Alabama State Department of Education (ALSDE) and ALEA, acting through the Governor’s Securing Alabama’s Facilities of Education (SAFE) Council, will develop a memorandum of understanding, implementation regulations, and guidance to participants. ALEA and ALSDE will establish guidelines for training requirements, stress tests, mental-health evaluations, and drug screenings.
Gov. Ivey states in the release, “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. 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.”
When asked about the Sentry program, Eufaula City School Superintendent Dr. Elisabeth Davis commented, “I am not comfortable with arming educators but rather support having trained SROs at all schools. Our administrators have so many responsibilities and shouldn’t have this additional responsibility put on them. There are still so many unknown details regarding the Sentry Program.
“We have only one SRO,” Davis reported when asked about how many SROs are stationed at the city schools. “He is assigned to the high school and the other schools have to call him if they need his assistance. The city provides him to Eufaula City Schools.
“We really need at least one full time at both EHS and AMMS. Many schools have them in all their schools, which is what we would like. We are very appreciative of the one we have, but desperately need another one if not two,” Davis concluded.
To be a Sentry at a school without a SRO, a school administrator must seek the approval of their local superintendent, local school board, and county sheriff to participate in the Sentry Program. School administrators seeking to assume the duties of school sentry must possess a valid Alabama school administrator certificate and a valid concealed-carry pistol permit. They must be appointed as a reserve sheriff’s deputy and must be an active school administrator in a public elementary or secondary school without an SRO. They must also pass a drug screening, a mental-health assessment, and a stress test. Sentries will be subject to random drug screenings, annual training, mental-health, and stress test recertification.
According to the press release from the Governor’s office, a school sentry’s duties will be written to include “the use of 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.” School sentries shall only exercise their duties in response to an armed intruder. 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.