Political Insider

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Superintendent proposes volunteer security outfit at Ga. schools

Georgia's new gun law allows school districts to decide whether to arm teachers and other staffers. State Superintendent John Barge has a different idea aimed at protecting the state's schools.

Barge, who is challenging Gov. Nathan Deal in the GOP primary, proposes a School Marshal Program that would provide onsite security and video surveillance during school hours and other campus events. He plans to start implementing the program in a handful of schools by the start of the next school year.

It's part of a volunteer organization called the School Marshal Association, a nonprofit group which said its members include current and former police officers, firefighters and military members who have pledged to volunteer at least one day a month.

Here's how Barge envisions it working:

The program would enlist volunteers who pass background checks and complete intensive training that would be determined by local authorities. The volunteers would be placed in schools that don't already have a school resource officer - most elementary and middle schools don't have one - and participation in the program is up to each school or district.

There have been 12 school shootings and 13 fatalities in Georgia since 1992, Barge said, and schools without resource officers are "vulnerable" to more violence. Said Barge:

"The most important action we can take as a state is to protect our children. In times such as these when education funding is limited, making sure each school has adequate security has become more difficult. That is one of the reasons I am in favor of the Georgia School Marshal program. It will help use provide real protection on every school campus in Georgia without increasing our budget."

Barge raised concerns about the sweeping new gun law last week, questioning the provision that allows licensed gun owners to carry their weapons into bars. Barge said then:

“Being the child of an alcoholic, I know that alcohol causes people to do some not so smart things. I thought it was still in an opt-in situation for bars. I realize now that it was taken out, and I have got a big concern with that. I don’t know if that’s the wisest thing.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.