Lawmakers hear testimony about safety in RI schools


A Rhode Island Senate committee heard testimony Tuesday from the state’s top education and police leaders about school safety.

Education commissioner Deborah Gist, state police Col. Steven O’Donnell, and the head of emergency management agency were among those fielding questions in the aftermath of the December massacre in Newtown, Conn.

O’Donnell said every local police department is trained in “active shooter” situations and that they practice in schools.

The EMA head said the agency is working with school staff on active shooter scenarios and provides a standardized program to local districts.

The education department is looking into standardized school entry protocols when it comes to locks and buzzers. But now, the thought is that it is best left to individual schools.

“I think that we need to think really carefully about how we carry that out because there is a cost requirement that would be, for many of our schools, that would come into play that would vary on the building. It also varies depending on the school construction itself,” Gist said.

As for preventing a shooting, Gist said there are plans for how to deal with students having behavioral problems at school. She said they’re working on coordinating treatment when a student is having issues at home that may not be seen by school staff.

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