AG presents fourth School Safety Award to GHS

Published 2:59 pm Friday, September 26, 2008

Attorney General Troy King said Wednesday’s visit to Greenville was getting to be a habit.

King was at Greenville High School delivering the school’s fourth consecutive Alabama Safe Schools 2008 Award for Excellence.

“Three times I’ve been here before,” said King to the students attending the Wednesday morning assembly. “Next year, I want to be here again, which would make Greenville High School the most awarded safe school in the state of Alabama.”

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The Alabama Safe Schools Initiative was started nine years ago, the state’s response to what was then an unprecedented rash of school shootings across the United States.

King referenced Columbine High School in Colorado, the site of a premeditated massacre of 12 students and one teacher by Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, two students of the school, who then committed suicide. King said since that day in April 1999, law enforcement officials and educators across the nation had worked together to ensure schools are safe.

But King said it is students who ultimately keep a school safe.

“It is you we should be thanking,” King told the assembly.

GHS Principal Dr. Charles Farmer agreed.

“Equally important, is our students who see the value safety plays in their day-to-day educational experience,” said Farmer. “When you have ownership by the group-at-large, the expectation of a safe learning environment is readily attainable.”

The ceremony was also a chance to honor Lt. Malcolm Owens, School Resource Officer for GHS. Students Carissa Grayson and Latorya Hawthorne serenaded Owens with the song “Wing Beneath My Wings” as students loudly cheered the man who serves the roles of both disciplinarian and friend.

“The tradition of safety that has been fostered at GHS should largely be credited to the personal mission of Lt. Owens,” said Farmer. “He, along with a dedicated faculty and staff, strive to keep our students informed about the importance of a safe learning environment.”

Owens said documentation meeting the AG’s standards as regards to the Safe Schools Award is exhaustive, but rewarding.

Plus, he said he’s organized enough to handle it.

“What I do is keep a calendar and make notations with “AG” on days where we have things which need to go to his office,” he said. “I then just make a copy for our files and toss the one for the AG in a box.”

When it comes time to submit the application, Owens said he has everything required in one place.

King said Owens’ application exceeded the standards. He said the judges were particularly impressed with the strong involvement of school and local law enforcement and emergency response agencies in safe school planning; and excellent crisis management preparation and training of school administration, teachers and students.

Owens also wished to share the spotlight with Cpl. Russ Davis, a fellow School Resource Officer at Greenville Middle School. This was the first year GMS had submitted an application packet for the Safe Schools Award and the school received an honorable mention by the judges.