Local News

Cumberland schools refine security measures

Posted January 16

— Good fences don't necessarily make good schools.

But Seabrook Elementary School in Cumberland County is rural, with few neighbors to keep watchful eyes. Last summer, administrators had a security fence placed along the entryway to the front office and another behind the school.

“It’s something to slow somebody down who would come onto the campus who didn’t have any business being here,” Principal Donna Parnell said.

Tuesday’s fatal shooting at a school in New Mexico is a reminder that security is still a top issue for schools around the county and in North Carolina. In Cumberland County, all public schools had panic buttons installed last year.

“If by chance something happens, someone presses that (button) and it automatically goes to an alarm system outside the school, and the police will respond,” Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till said.

All of the schools in the district have cameras and crisis plans. There's even a 24-7 hotline students can call if they suspect something bad is about to happen.

"We might prevent a suicide,” Till said. “We might prevent a shooting at a school. We might even catch a drug dealer.”

Till says the hotline and other ramped-up security measures were already in place before last year’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 students were killed.

But the massacre prompted more attention to detail, he said.

"We try to get the reports, (and) we try to learn from them,” Till said. “We try to see if there’s something our security system would not catch.”

Schools have peep holes in doors, and teachers have walkie-talkies.

"Every incident, whether it's Columbine or Sandy Hook, there's been a teacher who's stepped in to protect the children," Till said. "That's our first line of defense."

Since Newtown, the district has secured grants to put nine resource officers, all sheriff's deputies, in some elementary schools. Middle and high schools already have them.

Till said the improved security measures cost the district about a $1 million.

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