When the St. Tammany Parish School Board meets Thursday, they'll vote on new security recommendations that would require all students to wear uniforms and would add a school resource officer and a mental health provider to the staffs of every school.
The latter would cost an estimated $4 million.
The board, meeting as a committee of the whole last week, voted to recommend all three measures, but while increased staffing got unanimous support, the change to the system's uniform policy did not.
Associate Superintendent Peter Jabbia said the measures were recommended by a School Safety and Security Committee, which considered school security improvements in the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting that killed 17 students and faculty members in February.
Almost all schools in the district already require uniforms, Jabbia said, but six do not. They are Covington High School, Fontainebleau High School, Lakeshore High School, Mandeville High School, Pearl River High School and Lee Road Junior High.
Board member Neal Hennegan said that parents in those schools had voted against requiring them, and they should be asked whether they support a mandatory uniform proposal rather than having the policy imposed on them.
Board members Charles Harrell and Mary K. Bellisario agreed with Hennegan’s position, but the majority recommended the mandatory uniform policy by a 10-3 vote.
The other measure would install full-time resource officers and mental health providers at every school.
While noting the proposal would cost an additional $4 million a year, Jabbia said the school system “wanted to move on this as soon as possible."
He recommended drawing on FEMA money and the school system's share of the BP oil spill settlement for interim financing until a bond issue for permanent funding can be put on a future ballot.
The Safety and Security Committee that made the recommendations included School Board members and administrators, principals, teachers and parents. The members studied current security measures at St. Tammany schools and considered additional steps.
Besides uniforms and additional personnel, the safety committee also suggested installing perimeter fencing and more secure “magnetic” entryways at local schools. The School Board is expected to discuss those proposals at a later date.
Jabbia said all stakeholders surveyed by the committee, including principals and law enforcement officials, recommended uniforms as a way to quickly identify anyone of school age who didn’t belong on a school campus.