ATLANTA – Gov. Brian Kemp Thursday signed five education bills into law, including measures aimed at bolstering school safety and improving literacy. 

Capitol Beat News Service
This story also appeared in Capitol Beat News Service

“These bills will help improve literacy in our state and ensure our schools have the resources they need to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for both students and teachers,” Kemp said. 

“As governor, and as a father of three daughters, I want to make sure every Georgia student can take part in the unprecedented opportunity here in the Peach State.”

Kemp signed into law the Safe Schools Act, a key part of his legislative agenda this year. The new law requires all public schools to conduct an “intruder alert drill” by Oct. 1 of each school year. It also creates a voluntary school safety and anti-gang endorsement that teachers and other school employees can earn by completing a training program. 

Kemp also signed two bills aimed at improving early literacy in Georgia. 

The Georgia Early Literacy Act, sponsored by Rep. Bethany Ballard, R-Warner Robins, a former teacher, aims to improve the quality of early reading instruction.   

The new law will require schools to screen students from kindergarten to third grade on their reading proficiency three times a year. Students who are identified as falling behind in reading will receive an individual reading improvement plan within 30 days of being identified followed by intensive reading intervention until they catch up. 

School systems will also be required to amp up training of teachers in “the science of reading” – a method of teaching reading that draws on evidence from psychology and neuroscience and includes phonics instruction.   

companion bill sponsored by state Sen. Billy Hickman, R-Statesboro, requires Georgia to set up a 30-member Council on Literacy. The members will include state legislators, a state Board of Education member, literacy experts, teachers, and local school district officials.  

The council will be responsible for ensuring the implementation of the Early Literacy Act and provide an annual report that includes recommendations for addressing problems in the state’s literacy efforts.  

Two additional bills signed by Kemp aim to improve school conditions for students with certain health conditions.  

One new law, sponsored by Rep. Doug Stoner, D-Smyrna, allows all Georgia schools to obtain a prescription for and keep on hand “ready-to-use glucagon.” This drug helps people – often those with diabetes – in the case of very low blood sugar. It can be administered nasally or by injection. 

Another bill signed by Kemp aims to create safer school conditions for students with epilepsy and other seizure disorders. Sponsored by Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, the law will allow parents or guardians to submit a seizure action plan to schools for students who have seizure disorders, including epilepsy. The plans will specify what school personnel should do in the case of a seizure. 

The new law will also require the state Department of Education to develop a model seizure action plan that districts and parents can use to help formulate their plans and develop guidelines for training school nurses and personnel in seizure disorders and their management. 

School bus drivers who are responsible for transporting students with seizure disorders also must receive copies of the action plan and seizure-disorder first aid training. 

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

Rebecca Grapevine is Georgia politics and policy reporter for Capitol Beat News Service. She is an experienced journalist with recent work for Georgia Health News. She earned a bachelor's degree from Washington...