Education

New safety measures for NC schools expected in coming weeks

Posted August 22, 2013

A Hillsborough police officer patrols outside Central Elementary School on Dec. 17, 2012, in the wake of a school massacre in Connecticut.

— The staff at Partnership Elementary in Raleigh knew just what to do last September when a fatal shooting at nearby Cameron Village prompted more than a dozen schools to go on lockdown as police searched for the gunman.

Parents were glad to know administrators were prepared with a plan to keep parents informed and help protect students in case a gunman got on campus.

But that's not the case at every North Carolina school, says Billy Lassiter, deputy director of the North Carolina Center for Safer Schools.

"We found some had crisis plans that were very old. Then, we found some districts that didn't have a very comprehensive plan," Lassiter said Thursday. "They had one for fires but not for active shooters."

Formed in March by Gov. Pat McCrory, the Center for Safer Schools examines school security programs across the nation and proposes legislation and policy changes to help safeguard children while they learn.

It's recommending that every school perform an overall assessment to determine its individual security needs.

"We're developing a checklist of items every school should have, whether it be security cameras, fencing, more secure doors or different locks on their doors," Lassiter said.

It's one of approximately 80 recommendations that will go to McCrory in the coming weeks as part of a report by the center based on six months of research and nine town hall meetings across the state.

Security changes coming to NC schools Security changes coming to NC schools

"No school is going to be 100 percent, full-proof safe," Lassiter said. "I think parents should feel very confident sending their kids to school. We knew schools in North Carolina were already safe. This is going to make them safer."

The report, Lassiter says, will have recommendations for the governor and the General Assembly as well as the North Carolina Attorney General's Office, Department of Public Instruction, Department of Public Safety and Department of Health and Human Services.

"It's looking at mental health. It's looking at school security," Lassiter said. "It's also looking at instructional time kids have and how we can incorporate some character education components into that time also."

Legislation pushed by the Center for Safer Schools that has already been passed by the General Assembly means that, beginning with this school year, every school in the state must have a crisis plan.

Copies of schematic drawings of the schools, as well as copies of keys to all doors, must be given to local law enforcement agencies so that officers can get into a classroom or school immediately.

About $2 million is in the state budget to put panic buttons in every school by 2015.

Next month, the North Carolina State Board of Education will vote on how to dole out $7 million in grants to put more school resource officers in middle and elementary schools.

But parents, like Janele Royal, believe school safety precautions need to go beyond those types of measures.

"I think there's a lot of help needed in the mental health community rather than resource officers or things of that nature," she said.

That's why, Lassiter says, the Center for Safer Schools also pushed for legislation requiring school counselors and psychologists to spend at least 80 percent of their time working with students.

He says the center is taking a comprehensive approach and that, although all the recommendations won't be implemented right away, parents should know some changes have already occurred.

"Parents should go ahead and expect changes to be in place by the time the school starts this year," Lassiter said. "They’ll probably notice the crisis plan update. (Schools are) required to do school improvement plans with a safety aspect where parents are supposed to be brought into that process."

16 Comments

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  • beachboater Aug 23, 5:06 p.m.

    chuckyoung: I could NOT have said it better myself.

    "It's also looking at instructional time kids have and how we can incorporate some character education components into that time also."

    Gosh, wouldn't that be great. To teach the kids some character building ideas? Probably too much to ask for.

  • whatelseisnew Aug 23, 4:25 p.m.

    "The cause came from the parenting."

    NO the cause came from the person that decided to go kill people. MILLIONS AND MILLIONS of people suffer all sorts of hardships and traumas and poor even lack of parenting. Somehow, they are able to get through their life without slaughtering other people. PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY something that the lawyers and politicians and unfortunately too many other people work at continually erasing. Classic example is that lawsuit with the Durham Schools. Suspended kids, ah not their fault, the school must be picking on them.

  • whatelseisnew Aug 23, 4:20 p.m.

    "First... they are NOT looking out for children. It is a committee whose main conclusion was that schools need crisis plans - duh. And secondly, it is you right-wing nut jobs who hate children.... you gut food stamp programs and education."

    Wrong, unfortunately people like you do not understand that these horrific social programs have harmed, incarcerated, and killed millions of people, mostly minorities. No one is GUTTING education. We have a fundamental problem. The system is an outdated over-expensive dinosaur. It could be fixed, but all attempts to do it is greeted by a bunch of lies and nonsense. So, as a result billions upon billions upon billions are dumped into a massive, inefficient, ineffective and extremely high cost system. Then of course the miserable social programs that bring so much harm to the bulk of us, just consumes more and more resources. I want better for the kids, but the left wants to continue damaging them.

  • whatelseisnew Aug 23, 4:15 p.m.

    There is NO SAFE anywhere. Certainly the schools should be as prepared as they can possibly prepare. The simple truth is, people that for whatever reason want to harm others, WILL find a way to make it happen.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Aug 23, 3:55 p.m.

    A lock down plan, blue prints, keys, and even cameras are all reasonable ideas, but let's not turn them into prisons for the sake of a tiny reduction in school shootings from the already tiny rate of occurrences. Put that money to better use educating our children instead of conditioning them to put up with a police state.

  • junkmail5 Aug 23, 11:20 a.m.

    As to keys; why? If the school has an active shooter it is because the school is open.
    seankelly15

    Or the shooter walked in behind someone, with the door locking behind them.

    Or the shooter had a key and locked it behind him.

  • pappybigtuna1 Aug 23, 11:00 a.m.

    Same approach, different time. Instead of investigating why school violence occurs and correcting the cause; lets do more studies and spend a bigger pile of money and if we don't get the answers we are looking for - well, let's do it again, but spend a greater amount of money

    The people that come back to the schools to cause harm, generally had a very traumatic experience in the school, bullied, embarrassed, overtly punished. Something they could never let go of. This is the result, not the cause.

    The cause came from the parenting.

  • seankelly15 Aug 23, 10:38 a.m.

    arfamr1008 - "thanks repubs for looking out for our children...the same children that liberals obviously hate"

    First... they are NOT looking out for children. It is a committee whose main conclusion was that schools need crisis plans - duh. And secondly, it is you right-wing nut jobs who hate children.... you gut food stamp programs and education.

  • seankelly15 Aug 23, 10:35 a.m.

    "Copies of schematic drawings of the schools, as well as copies of keys to all doors, must be given to local law enforcement agencies so that officers can get into a classroom or school immediately."

    They are called blueprints and cops could have gotten them from the cities upon request. As to keys; why? If the school has an active shooter it is because the school is open.

  • Offshore Aug 23, 10:27 a.m.

    I would think it would be in the best interest of the school, teachers, students and parents to take an active roll in the safety of every school. Bringing in LEO's to help set up guide lines and action plans is a necessity, not an option. They're already trained, and are more than happy to assist.
    Good move Gov. McCrory.

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