Newton safety plans not approved by state

CONYERS - The Newton County School System was one of the 32 Georgia school districts that the Associated Press reported last week has yet to get state approval for their school security plans.

Since 1999, state law required the plans be submitted to the state Department of Education, which then will forward the plans to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency for review.

While some of the 32 school systems are blaming county personnel and budget issues for not even getting their plans turned into the state, officials at NCSS said they are in compliance with the law.

"We work with our schools to develop safety plans, and we submit them to the Georgia Emergency Management Agency every year," said Sherri Viniard, director of Public Relations at NCSS. "We've been informed that although some personnel changes at GEMA have delayed final approval of our school safety plan, they are in the process of reviewing it."

According to the Associated Press, the statute that requires school systems to turn in their security plans for approval does not include any penalties for those that don't comply.

"We would like to think a school system would comply because it is the law," said Buzz Weiss, spokesman for the Georgia Emergency Management Agency. "We would like to have 100 percent, but we realize that's very unlikely."

State officials report that all 184 Georgia school systems have a security plan, but GEMA has not reviewed all of them.

The school safety plans are made up of protocols for a number of situations, including fires, tornadoes and other natural and man-made disasters and security issues. GEMA reviews the plans and could require changes, if necessary.

"Safety is always a top priority for us," Viniard said.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.

SideBar: At A Glance

Georgia school districts that have not received state approval for their security plans, despite a law that went into effect in 1999:

· Atkinson County

· Baker County

· Baldwin County

· Ben Hill County

· Brantley County

· Bremen City

· Butts County

· Cartersville City

· Chickamauga City

· Clayton County

· Clinch County

· Commerce City

· Dodge County

· Gainesville City

· Gilmer County

· Heard County

· Lincoln County

· Marion County

· McIntosh County

· Newton County

· Peach County

· Putnam County

· Quitman County

· Randolph County

· Stewart County

· Sumter County

· Talbot County

· Taylor County

· Toombs County

· Treutlen County

· Trion City

· Wheeler County

Source: Georgia Emergency Management Agency, courtesy of the Associated Press