Local News

Sampson County Schools Learning to Prevent School Shootings

Posted June 28, 1998

— Most school leaders know what to do if a tornado approaches or a fire starts in their school. Now, Sampson County officials are preparing for a different kind of disaster. They want to be prepared for the unlikely, but possible event of a school shooting.

It's hard to prepare for a school shooting, but Sampson County officials want to be as ready as possible. They are looking at methods of prevention as well as intervention so they will never have to deal with a school shooting first hand.

Sampson County Leaders want to make sure their schools are safe, because most of the recent school shootings took place in small towns.

Monday, school officials, police, elected officers, prosecutors and child psychologists shared ideas to prevent a similar tragedy in Sampson County.

"People knew, some people had an idea that this child was not fitting in, not doing what they should be, was not behaving and reacting the way they should and they said nothing," said school psychologist Diane Walters, in reference to young students who have carried out threats of violence across the country.

The message Monday was that doing nothing can be a big mistake. Leaders discussed ways to recognize the warning signs among students, before violence occurs.

"If we as a group of individuals and professional people in the schools can identify those areas that might be a big problem down the road, that is important to us," said Gary Weeks, superintendent of Sampson County schools.

Such prevention and caution is also important to the parents and grandparents of students.

Mary Hunter worries about her 12-year-old grandson every time he heads to school.

"As a grandparent you can't be there 24 hours a day and as a parent you can't be there 24 hours a day," said Hunter.

Officials say as a parent or a teacher, its important to take action if you notice unusual behavior with a child. Don't brush it off as if it might be a "just a phase".

School leaders are also expanding their safe schools plan. If a school shooting does happen, they want everyone to know what their roles are.

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