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Wednesday, July 17, 2013 - 8:20am

Newtown Looms At School Safety Conference

Georgia emergency management, law enforcement, and education officials are gathered in Columbus this week to talk school safety, and the tragedy in Newtown, Conn. last December is driving the discussion.

The fourth annual "Safety in Our Schools" conference is running Tuesday through Thursday at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

The schedule includes sessions with titles such as "Terrorism: The Lone Wolf Threat" and "Active Shooter Response." One talk on Tuesday focused on the 2004 school siege in Beslan, Russia, in which Chechen separatists killed nearly 800 children.

"Are we worried that our kids are going to be attacked be attacked by Chechen, terrorists? No," said U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Georgia Michael Moore, who is co-hosting the conference. "But when we talk about that, we also need to talk about ways of [considering] 'How do we lock down a school if we need to? How do we respond to a crisis? How do we get kids to a safe location?'"

In contrast to an international terrorist incident, Moore said a domestic terrorism incident is a real threat in Georgia. He argues that state officials should fund an armed school resource officer in every school.

Earlier this year, state legislators considered allowing teachers or administrators to carry guns in school districts that cannot afford officers. But guns are better left to the professionals, Moore said.

"You can’t go to a week-long class on gun safety and then feel like you can protect a school with a hand gun that’s locked up in the school office," he said.

Moore also thinks school resource officers help kids develop a positive impression of law enforcement, particularly in communities where that relationship can be tense.

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