- Associated Press - Saturday, May 3, 2014

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - The job description for the new position of state school security director should include one key detail: prepare to be very busy.

The person hired for the position created by the Nebraska Legislature will recommend minimum standards for school security and assess the security of every public school building in the state. The director also must establish tornado preparedness standards.

And if they wasn’t enough, the director will oversee implementation of a suicide awareness and prevention training law approved by the Legislature this year requiring action by thousands of teachers and other educators.

The director will have the help of a secretary.

Sen. Rick Kolowski of Omaha, who sponsored the measure, said it was manageable for the sole official to work with Nebraska’s 249 school districts.

“We’re not trying to grow staff, we’re trying to serve our public,” he said, adding that the Legislature could change the job in the future if needed.

The measure creating the school security director position is made up of four separate ideas that were combined into one bill.

The director, who will be hired by the Department of Education, has until Aug. 31, 2017, to make the security assessments of all school buildings. The official will likely offer possible improvements dealing with items such as lighting, cameras and door locks.

“I think there’s always things that districts could look at or have another set of eyes look at,” Kolowski said.

The director will focus special attention on small- and medium-sized districts that don’t have a school security person, he said.

Sen. Amanda McGill of Lincoln pushed for the suicide awareness and prevention training, overseen by the security director. The law requires all public school teachers, counselors, nurses and other appropriate school personnel to receive at least one hour of suicide awareness and prevention training each year, starting during the 2015-2016 school year.

The 2011 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, given every two years to a random sample of Nebraska high school students, found that 14 percent of them seriously considered suicide in the past year, and 8 percent attempted suicide.

Aileen Brady, chief operating officer of Community Alliance, a mental health agency serving the Omaha metropolitan area, said the measure will save lives by giving school employees a better understanding of how to help students.

“I think it has put us in a very good position to protect our young people,” she said.

The security director also will take a lead role in establishing tornado preparedness standards for schools, including the requirement that schools hold at least two drills a year.

John Skretta, superintendent of the Norris School District south of Lincoln, said the two-drill requirement is feasible.

“It’s never a disruption to plan and prepare and to increase safety readiness,” said Skretta, whose district buildings were damaged when an EF-4 tornado tore through the area in 2004.

The measure also required schools to establish a protocol for returning students to school after they have sustained a concussion, either during a sanctioned athletic event or away from school. The protocol would recognize that these students may need certain accommodations or monitoring until they have fully recovered.

Parents would have to contact the school and let them know of an injury.

The legislation follows a bill approved in 2011 aimed at ensuring student-athletes have recovered from a concussion before being allowed to resume a sport.

Rusty McKune, sports medicine program coordinator at The Nebraska Medical Center and past president of Nebraska State Athletic Trainers’ Association, said the latest law reflects that students who have had concussions could need more time to take tests or allowances made so they can visit with a school nurse.

Concussions can affect a student’s ability to focus, and some people can suffer from symptoms such as headaches or dizziness.

“The reason that it’s needed is because we need to make sure that were treating these concussed students from start to finish,” McKune said.

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The bill is LB923

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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