State leaders are urging local law enforcement and school districts to work closely together to ensure that all North Carolina schools are safe and offered state tools and resources to help.
The Governor’s Crime Commission and the State Emergency Response Commission will apply their expertise to prioritize school safety, Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks announced today.
In addition, Governor Roy Cooper and Secretary Hooks sent letters this week asking school superintendents, local law enforcement agency heads, charter school principals and independent schools to work together and with the state to prevent further school tragedies.
“We are shocked and saddened as we learn more about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last month. This was a senseless act of violence. We mourn for the lives lost, their families and friends, and pray for the community at large as they deal with this tragedy,” Governor Cooper said in the letter. “But thoughts and prayers alone will not prevent this from happening again. We must work together to ensure that our schools are safe places for children to grow and learn.”
Governor Cooper in his letter called on schools to include local law enforcement and emergency management in their annual school-wide preparedness drills. He also encouraged educators, families and students to share information regarding threats or potential threats with school leaders and law enforcement.
Secretary Hooks in his letter recommended these additional steps to protect schools and communities:
~More rapid deployment training for law enforcement
~Updating school emergency response kits
~Ensuring knowledge of and training on best practices
~Support positive youth mental health and wellness
~Continuously share information on potential threats
Secretary Hooks today addressed members of the Governor’s Crime Commission on the issue of school safety, announcing that the Commission will convene a special committee to collaborate on solutions to improve school safety.
“Tragically, school shootings have become too common an occurrence in this country. It is imperative that we utilize every resource available to examine and address threats to our children and educators,” Secretary Hooks said. “We owe it to the people of this state, and most of all our children, to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like what occurred in Parkland, Florida from ever happening again.”
In a letter to Crime Commission members, Secretary Hooks said the committee would include members representing law enforcement, juvenile justice, courts, schools, behavioral health, and others and will identify resources and develop recommendations to strengthen school safety. Secretary Hooks also asked the committee to conduct community forums to gather and share information, listen to concerns and identify possible strategies for preventing gun violence in schools.
Secretary Hooks also asked the State Emergency Response Commission to convene a special committee charged with enhancing school safety. In a letter to Commission Vice Chair Michael Sprayberry, Secretary Hooks tasked the new group with identifying resources and making recommendations to address potential threats, and promoting best practices for incident response throughout the state’s school systems. Our goal is to provide to public safety officials guidance and recommendations on planning, training and response to active assailant incidents, Hooks noted.
“Addressing the crisis of school violence requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach that involves the community, mental health and public safety professionals,” Secretary Hooks told the Governor’s Crime Commission members. “Our children and teachers deserve our full commitment to address violence in our schools.”
After the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, a North Carolina school board has approved a program which would allow armed volunteers to serve as school resource officers.
Local media report the Stanly County School Board has unanimously approved a program presented by Sheriff George Burris. The Stanly County Sheriff’s Office will run the program that state lawmakers approved following the 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook School in Connecticut. The program will start at four rural elementary schools.
State law requires school resource officers to have experience as a sworn law enforcement officer or a military police officer with a minimum of two years of service. Volunteers will also go through extensive background checks and training.
Locally, Moore County Schools received many inquiries as to how the school manages the safety and security of students and staff at the district’s 23 schools after the school shooting in Florida.
Members of the Moore County Schools Safe and Healthy Schools Committee came together recently at the Central Office to discuss the tactics used by the Florida school shooter and to strengthen the district’s safety protocols and to close the gaps made evident by the recent shooting.
The American flag and North Carolina flag flown at half-staff at The Village Hall in Pinehurst in honor of the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
The committee issued a press release to “provide parents with an overview the activities Moore County Schools does to prepare in the event a crisis happens on one of our campuses whether it be a natural disaster, an accident or intentional.”
The Committee meets on a regular basis to reevaluate methods, protocols, and procedures relating to school safety and security, according to the news release.
In addition to the district-level committee, each school has a Campus Emergency Response Team who are trained and assigned specific duties and responsibilities if a crisis event occurs at a school. CERT teams recently participated in a district-wide emergency table-top exercise with local law enforcement and the Sheriff’s Office specifically responding to an active shooter.
In the press release, the school system wrote, “Moore County Schools is fortunate to have its own police force which gives the district an advantage in having a visible law enforcement on campus who build relationships with and interact with students on a daily basis. In turn, School Resources Officers have relationships with local law enforcement in their respective communities.”
Starting next school year, each school will have received Youth Mental Health First Aid Training. The training will provide school staff to be better equipped to support the mental health needs of the students.
In addition, the news release stated, in the coming weeks, Student Support Services staff, administrators, and school resource officer will be participating in a threat/risk assessment training from an instructor who was heavily involved in working with the Florida officials in the aftermath of the shooting.
According to the press release, some of the security protocols cannot be shared publicly; however, regular security procedures include the locking of campus’ doors and using a key fob system, and managing access points to campuses.
All schools routinely conduct lock-down drills and participate in training on emergency procedures to reduce or eliminate the threat of school violence.
This article was written with the help of the Associated Press.
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Feature photo contributed