Education

NC schools chief: School safety No. 1 priority

Posted January 11, 2013

— In the wake of last month's school massacre in Newtown, Conn., state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson says North Carolina's schools are among the safest places children can be but that school leaders need to continue being vigilant.

"School safety is our No. 1 priority. We want to make sure that our students feel safe and that parents feel good about sending students to school," Atkinson said Friday. "We will continue our work with school districts about making sure that all of our schools are as safe as can be."

Atkinson plans to meet with district superintendents later this month to look at what the state's 2,500 schools are doing to keep children safe and to talk about ways to improve upon that.

"I believe that we can look toward other solutions that would have a greater impact in making sure our schools are safe," she said. "We have to be proactive when it comes to bullying. We have to be proactive in helping students be able to resolve problems in civil ways, and we need to make sure we have facilities that lend themselves to safety."

The State Board of Education and legislation already require schools to have in place safety plans and other measures put in place after the 1999 high school shootings in Columbine, Colo.

For example, every school has lockdown drills, and principals have what's called Critical Incident Response Kits that contain vital information for emergency responders.

School security State school board to review safety plans

One of the most noticeable safety measures in schools are school resource officers – currently, about 55 percent of funding for these officers comes from the state.

The state is working on an updated look at the number of officers in schools, but according to the most recent data, from 2008-2009, a majority of high and middle schools had their own officer. Only 1 percent of elementary schools had a campus officer, and one in five shared an officer with another school.

There are also guidelines for making sure schools are built for maximum safety. They include controlled access to buildings, road and sidewalk configuration and the use landscape as a means of protection.

Atkinson concedes aging schools pose a problem, because they were designed decades ago to promote collaboration.

Many districts also use trailers, which she says, make it difficult to maintain "optimal safety."

"When you look at safety, having multiple buildings makes it much more difficult," Atkinson said.

But because of costs associated with the designs, it's up to school districts as to whether to follow them.

School safety data provided to the state board Thursday showed the total number of reported acts of crime and violence decreased 4 percent.

More than half of the reported crimes involved possession of drugs or alcohol on campus. Nearly one-third of the reported crimes involved weapons possession. There were 1,212 reported assaults on school employees last school year, the report said. Sexual assaults excluding rape rounded out the top five campus crimes, with 187 cases reported statewide.

10 Comments

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  • kermit60 Jan 18, 9:31 a.m.

    goldenosprey: Great logic. So we can then raise tax on alcohol for more cops to catch people DUI. Raise tax on food to pay doctors to treat overweight people. Raise the tax on your house to pay for homeless shelters. Raise the tax on pets and pet products to pay for more shelters and animal control. Raise the tax on gasoline to cut back on carbon emissions. Where would it stop?

  • dillontina5 Jan 15, 2:12 p.m.

    I believe we can make our school safe by adding cameras at every door that can be enter, even in the parking lot when you first enter the school. Also I believe kids should have no backpack or see through backpacks. And we as parent can monitor these cameras, like we help in the health clinic, lunch room and copy paper so we can add this also. I mean someone needs to be in the cameras room all day every day.............

  • goldenosprey Jan 14, 3:32 p.m.

    What makes schools unsafe?
    If it is crazies with firearms then the billion$ it would take to put an armed cop or 3 in every school should come from taxes on guns and ammo.
    Then we can only hope they will be more effective than the armed cop at Columbine.

  • Tug Boat II Jan 11, 7:54 p.m.

    I would agree that SOME of our schools are the safest place for children, but not ALL.

  • rushbot Jan 11, 7:50 p.m.

    Dear WRAL, please leave the Newton interactive screen up this year..it brings humanity to the debate on guns. also..slate has a terrific link if you all could link to that too it would be super..thanks..

  • HopingForABetterWorld Jan 11, 7:48 p.m.

    Schools aren't safe. The plans that are in place don't keep them safe, they tell how to respond when there is danger. Doors are supposed to be locked, but they are unlocked because it is an inconvenience to people to have to have a key or be buzzed to get in. Anyone who wants to get in can easily get in. The "good" people follow the rules and sign in. The others wouldn't worry about that.

  • wakewiseone Jan 11, 7:47 p.m.

    ".........June Atkinson says North Carolina's schools are among the safest places children can be"

    atkinson is deluded if she thinks for a moment that statement is true.

    AND she must consider the citizens of north carolina to be stoopid if they buy into that claim.

    sandy hook could have occurred anywhere in NC.

    time for resource officers in ALL schools.

  • Mustange Jan 11, 7:25 p.m.

    Dont be fooled into thinking alls well. School resource officer has to cover 4 or 5 schools. Something happens while hes miles away putting his presence in at another school well he will be like the rest of the officers just in time to say im sorry i was somewhere else.

  • itsyoureternalsoul Jan 11, 6:55 p.m.

    The most important thing any age student needs to know in NC: Parents control spineless, jellyfish principals.

  • pappy1 Jan 11, 6:25 p.m.

    What a shame. Used to be, teaching children was the top priority of our schools.