Education

Security beefed up at NC schools after Connecticut shootings

Posted December 17, 2012
Updated May 10, 2013

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— Many school systems tightened security Monday in an effort to make parents and students feel more secure in the wake of Friday's mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

Twenty first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., were gunned down in their classrooms by a heavily armed man. Six members of the school staff, the gunman and his mother also died in the rampage.

"It was really hard this morning bringing my son here. I had a lot of mixed feelings whether or not he would be safe," said Mary Ann Monson, whose son attends Cameron Park Elementary School in Hillsborough. "I was relieved to know that the sheriff's department had people here on site that would be able to protect our children."

An Orange County deputy or Hillsborough police officer will be posted at every elementary school in the Orange County Schools district this week, and Superintendent Patrick Rhodes said principals were reviewing their crisis plans.

Brian Matthews, who has a first- and fourth-grader at Cameron Park Elementary, said he was pleased by the district's proactive response to the situation but said he knows the added security won't last.

"With the county's current budget situation (and) the city's budget situation, is it really feasible and possible for a full-time officer to be at every elementary school?" Matthews said. "The sad reality of it is, it’s probably not."

The Wake County Sheriff's Office and area police departments beefed up patrols near area elementary and middle schools, even though Interim Superintendent Stephen Gainey told school board members and district staff over the weekend that he wanted schools to remain in their routine and not take steps that would heighten student anxiety.

"My biggest worry is that, at the end of the day, children will be scared about school," Gainey said Monday.

Interim Wake school superintendent Stephen Gainey Wake superintendent: Don't make students scared of school

School security Law enforcement posted outside Orange elementary schools

After parents questioned the muted response, however, the Wake County Public School System posted an open letter to parents Monday on its website, stating that the security team and district leaders are reviewing emergency operation plans and procedures. Gainey also said in the letter that principals will review their individual site plans as well.

The superintendent noted that the district on Friday provided school leaders with tips for dealing with students in the aftermath of the Connecticut shootings. Local principals and teachers also crafted their own responses, sometimes reaching out to families by voicemail or email.

"(The teacher) did say she wouldn't bring it up unless the child did but would respond if the children needed," said Becky Lieneman, whose daughter attends A.B. Combs Elementary School in Raleigh.

Other area districts also took a measured response to the tragedy.

Durham Public Schools Superintendent Eric Becoats sent a phone message to parents over the weekend to reassure them about the safety of local schools and to offer tips about discussing the Newtown shootings with their children. Counselors also were available Monday at Durham schools for students.

Cumberland County Schools Associate Superintendent Betty Musselwhite said materials were sent to principals and teachers on how to address the concerns of parents and students of a school shooting. Also, principals recently had a roundtable discussion of how to handle crisis situations, she said.

A spokeswoman for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools said guidance counselors were on hand Monday to help any child struggling with the shootings, but no changes have been made to the security measures.

Superintendent Emily Marsh issued a statement Monday to the parents of students at U.S. Department of Defense schools at Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune and other North Carolina bases that principals and school administrators will review their security measures and crisis procedures.

Though public access to military bases is typically restricted, the 2009 shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, showed they are not immune to violence.

Marsh said keeping classrooms safe and secure must be the first priority. She says she welcomes suggestions from parents on how to enhance security at on-base schools.

Gainey said that law enforcement agencies will likely share lessons learned from the tragedy once the investigation is complete, and school districts will then implement any needed security changes.

8 Comments

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  • kermit60 Dec 18, 1:42 p.m.

    I think the school would be better served with a police present.

    Doing a little math, if you paid $10.00 an hour for 8 hours for five days a week, it would cost Cumberland County alone 124 thousand dollars a month just in salary for one cop in each school. 9 months of school = 1.1 million. That doesn't include training, insurance,retirement etc. Money from?

  • Bob3425 Dec 18, 12:08 p.m.

    I think the school would be better served with a police present. Teacher are there to teach, we don't need unsecure weapons in a school. Could the staff have a firearm in a lock safe yes, so long has the person are trained to use it. I think all school should have fences around them with control access, How this man who didn't work there; then got in with two pistol and AR-15 long gun show a security break down.

  • lasm Dec 18, 11:17 a.m.

    With more and more average citizens attending classes and obtaining concealed carry licenses; and with more and more average citizens owning guns and learning the correct way to use guns, why can't we monitor our schools with PARENTS and other volunteers to take turns (written schedules)that will NOT cost taxpayers, nor anyone else. If we care so much about the safety of our children, why can't we organize to protect them at school? I know that if I still had school-age children, I would volunteer my scheduled time (WITH my gun, that I am trained to use responsibly). In fact, even though I don't have school-aged children now, I would STILL volunteer. Retired people, grandparents, parents, concerned citizens, etc......it would not cost ANYTHING-except for each of these responsible people to purchase legally, pay for their own class to learn to use the weapon responsibly and/or attend and pass a concealed carry license class. Let's take back our community and schools!

  • josephlawrence43 Dec 18, 10:45 a.m.

    Gotta wonder about the leadershlp of our school systems and law enforcement agenies in response to this tragedy: More police officers at each school? State and local budgets simply can't support that; Tax increases in order to support more officers at the schools? In the curret environment, kinda doubt that as well. Telling teachers to lock their doors and turn out the lights?? Thats the extent to which teachers can go now--will anyone ever consider taking qualified teachers, give them police firearmes training, background checks, mental health screenings, and then give them access to defensive wezpons in each school? Take a teacher who is former military, give them the law enforcement training, place a given number of weapons at strategic locations around a school building in secure locations--the only individuals having access to those weapons would be the selected teachers, and administration members.Might not stop all the killings but would sure reduce the number of deaths.

  • Whatthehey Dec 18, 10:10 a.m.

    "Interim Superintendent Stephen Gainey told school board members that he wanted schools to remain in their routine and not take steps that would heighten student anxiety."

    Kids and parents are already scared, and become more alarmed when school leaders stick their head in the sand and appear clueless. No, perfect security is not possible, but confidence is increased when leaders acknowledge problems and enact reasonable steps. Middle & high school students have already been stressed, distracted, and frightened by the ongoing, daily violence, intimidation, vandalism, and arrests in our public schools, which school officials try to hide rather than confront as community problems. For example, no media reported the arson committed by 4 youth at the occupied Athens high school last week!

  • Lamborghini Mercy Dec 18, 9:39 a.m.

    renkengrl - What about are children in pods?

    I'd assume they'll have people outside of the building watching the entire perimeter.

  • renkengrl Dec 18, 8:14 a.m.

    What about are children in pods? We have several children around the area being placed in outdoor pods. No security, no locks, no way for teachers to see outside to look for incoming danger. My boys are in outside pods. I am very concerned for their safety. How are we going to protect all of these children?

  • kermit60 Dec 17, 1:36 p.m.

    I know more cops isn't the answer. The shooting in Conn was over before most cops knew it was happening.