School storm shelter debate heads to Supreme Court

The fight to install storm shelters in schools across the state heads to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. On Monday the group Take Shelter Oklahoma met with the Attorney General's office for a scheduling meeting.

Take Shelter Oklahoma is made up of families who lost children during the May 20th tornado. They say Monday's meeting gave them the feeling like they were not being taken seriously. So they're determined, more than ever, to get the signatures they need to get shelters in every school.

"There should not be a fight. Not when it comes to children's safety," said mother Kristi Conatzer. Her 9 year old daughter Emily was killed inside Plaza Towers.

But a fight is exactly what the parents who lost children at Plaza Towers feel like they're in. Take Shelter Oklahoma's attorney David Slane says Monday's scheduling hearing was not what they expected.

"From some of the things that the Attorney General said was an indication that they're hoping that we don't get enough signatures so this never has to be heard," said Slane.

It's a challenge parents plan to take on with all they've got, and they say they will succeed.

"Your babies and my babies are being exploited for politics and that's wrong," said Kathy Turner.

The group is also upset by changes the Attorney General made to the ballot language.

"The Attorney General wanted to re-write it so he would overemphasize the word "tax" and under emphasize what the real initiative is, which is to protect children," Slane said.

Just a few short hours after the hearing, the group set up outside Rococo on Penn. They are hoping to count down the 160,000 signatures they need to force a statewide vote.

"If this could get accomplished that would be monumental," said Rococo owner Bruce Rinehart.

"I would like to see the shelters in. Make us feel better," said Maria Ogburn who came to sign the petition with her children.

The deadline for the petition and all of the signatures is December 16. The group hopes the Attorney General doesn't decide to challenge those signatures, or it's back to square one.

"People can't wait to sign the petition because it's the right thing to do. We're changing the future for children," said Turner.

So far the group has about 30,000 signatures. The Governor's communication director Alex Weintz did release a statement Monday about the Governor's efforts to get shelters for students.

"Ensuring that our school children are safe is a priority for Governor Fallin, as it is for every parent.

"Immediately after the tornadoes in May, the governor directed the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management to develop a plan to increase the number of safe rooms in Oklahoma schools.

"Since then, Director Albert Ashwood has personally been leading the charge on this project. He has assembled a working group with FEMA and other partners - in both the public and private sector - to develop a comprehensive school safety plan.

"The goal of the working group is to offer tools not only to protect children against tornadoes and other severe weather events, but also security threats like active shooters.

"To aid in that goal, the working group is helping to assemble assessment teams that can evaluate the unique safety needs of each school.

"It's important to evaluate each school individually, as each have different structural and safety challenges. Some schools have existing safe areas - like basements -- that could be enhanced or reinforced at minimal costs. Other schools may not have those facilities, but may be located next to other schools that do. Helping to identify opportunities where one safe room could house students and faculty from multiple schools is another goal of the assessment teams.

"The governor believes this assessment process is the logical first step for any effort to improve school safety. Before the state can start dedicating substantial funds for safety improvement, it must first know where schools have the most safety needs and how best to meet those needs."