If the Georgia Legislature needs a mini-lesson in writing effective laws, lawmakers should look no further than their seven-year-old law on school safety plans.
The immediate message they'll get: Set deadlines, or you're wasting our time.
Back in 1999, in the midst of the reactions to the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado, Georgia's Legislature approved a law requiring local school systems to establish safety plans for every campus, with the Georgia Emergency Management Agency serving as the clearinghouse for the plans.
By the end of the next school year, Columbia County had put in place plans for all of its schools. The plans are revised and updated each year, and new schools are added as they are built - the latest added was River Ridge Elementary.
Those plans were useful recently when several schools were hit with bomb threats. Administrators could immediately refer to their "red book" for response guidelines, and the central office could know every school was reading from the same sheet of music.
That's the way it's supposed to work; Columbia County frequently earns praise for getting work done on time. Here's the way it isn't: Richmond County, seven years after the law was passed, still has not filed emergency plans for its schools.
"Right now, we are reviewing site-safety manuals from all of our schools," says Deputy Superintendent James Thompson. Donnie Fetter's recent story in The Augusta Chronicle points out that those plans will "eventually" be sent to GEMA for approval.
That's pitiful. But Richmond County has the leeway to lollygag because the state didn't set a deadline; the law simply says the plans have to be filed, without specifying when. The date might as well be the 12th of Never.
The Legislature can easily fix this when they return to Atlanta in the spring. The schools have had seven years to comply; give them until the end of the school year to finish their homework.
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