Sandhills_Sentinel

At Monday’s Moore County Board of Education work session, a report was presented on student safety and health and welfare.

The strategic plan Moore County Schools adopted had five areas of focus that include: academic achievement, student safety and health and welfare, employee culture and capacity, parent and community engagement, and organizational capacity and efficiency.

The goal is to meet three objectives: the district will create safe, supportive, and engaging school cultures, the district will review and revise policies and implement strategies designed to reduce discipline disparities, and the district will support students with mental and physical health challenges and assist students in times of crisis.

The school district has made significant progress in several areas including programs to improve the school’s culture which includes Positive intervention Behavior and Supports, Capturing Kids Hearts and the implementation of Student and Climate/Culture Surveys.

Moore County Schools also hired an additional school resource officer and have begun the process of installing Campus Emergency Alert Systems and have rolled out a mobile Active Defender School Safety app that almost all school staff have on their phones.

Currently, two schools have Campus Emergency Alert Systems with the goal that all schools will have them installed in the next few months.

Depending on the schools and the equipment required, it costs between $2,500-$3,000 per school. The system includes external speakers that will broadcast an alert that can be heard throughout the entire campus and includes English and Spanish announcements.

The Active Defender School Safety app allows any staff member to issue an alert and can save seconds when seconds matter. As explained, if a teacher pulls into the parking lot and sees a person walking across the parking lot with a gun, before the app was available they would have to call the office and get someone to issue a lockdown, which could take a minute or so. With the app, the staff member can issue a lockdown alert in only a few seconds, which will go off on every staff member’s phone that has the app installed.

The schools have also added a Behavioral Health Intervention Team and have trained staff members in suicide and threat assessment protocols. They are offering professional development and training in youth mental health first aid, including signs of suicide. Moore County Schools Supertentend Dr. Robert Grimesey pointed out that “the Intervention Team is not meant to replace family and community mental health services.”

One area that has shown mixed results is in school discipline and racial disparities. Since 2017, the number of office referrals has fallen from a high of 2,644 to 2,338, with an accompanying fall in suspensions and charges by Moore County School Police. Additionally, many of those charged took advantage of Moore County Schools Second Change Program or teen court. These programs have an 80% success rate.

One continued area of concern is the racial disparities between white and black students. Moore County’s school population is 60% white and approximately 16% black. The African American students accounted for approximately 40% of all discipline referrals as opposed to 47% for white students. The district has implemented programs to address this, including studying the data and increasing staff training.

School Board Chairman Helena Wallin-Miller commented, “the data is concerning, but I am glad we are taking these steps.”

The next school board meeting will be on November 12.

Sandhills_Sentinel~Written by Local News/Government Reporter Chris Prentice.
Contact him at chris@sandhillssentinel.com or (910) 639-9303

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