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Limiting Harm from HB 147, the "Safe Schools Act"

House Bill 147, the "Safe Schools Act," mandates creating a "school safety and anti-gang endorsement" for "eligible certificated professional personnel and conducting annual active shooter drills. The Georgia Senate passed the bill, and it will soon be on Governor Brian Kemp's desk for signature to become law in effect July 1, 2023.

Regarding the endorsement, the agencies tasked with creating it are all police and judicial agencies with poor records. Mikayla Arciaga, the Georgia Advocacy Director for the Intercultural Development Research Association, wrote in a Twitter thread:

"Gang activity doesn’t start in school. It's based in the community and requires a coordinated response from school & community. ... The decision for anti-gang training should be made locally by the school, community and local law enforcement because it takes alignment to implement intervention & prevention strategies with any meaningful fidelity. It isn’t deputizing individual educators. ... Knowing our students might be involved with a gang does very little to help know how to support and educate them. ... [B]est practices for supporting these kids really is similar to what it is for all kids - strong, trusting relationships."

In other jurisdictions, non-white youth have been over-labeled and mis-labeled as gang members, leading to exposure to the criminal punishment system, denial of educational opportunity and, in some cases, deportation.

No evidence supports the effectiveness of active shooter drills, and some evidence suggests they harm children's mental health.

We urge the district to:

1) Evaluate training provided for the anti-gang endorsement, looping in organizations that recognize that even gang-involved kids are still kids.

2) Mandate announcements in advance for all armed intruder drills.

3) Publicize widely and implement properly the parental opt-out provision mandated by the law.

Contact your board members and convey your ideas on who the harms from the "Safe Schools Act" may be mitigated.

A representative of our organization spoke about HB 147 at the March 14, 2023 Board of Education meeting.

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