Cary, N.C. — A security task force created by the Wake County Board of Education heard from a local security expert Thursday as they continue looking at the school system's policies for emergency prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.
Jerry Blanchard, CEO of Risk Management Associates, Inc., told the task force there are several factors that will make it tough to create completely safe environments at the county's elementary, middle and high schools.
"Can we guarantee their safety at all time? No," Blanchard said. "It would be foolish for us to think we can tighten up security without some impact on the learning environment that is there."
Despite the difficulty, the group, which is headed by Sheriff Donnie Harrison and former Raleigh police Capt. Al White, will deliver a plan to the school board within the next three months.
New legislation in the North Carolina General Assembly could make the job easier. A bipartisan group of House lawmakers is backing an ambitious bill to improve school safety across the state.
House Bill 452 would spend $34 million over the next two years to improve emergency planning, crisis response and prevention in schools around the state.
The bill would give $20 million toward more security officers in middle and elementary schools and $10 million toward counseling services. Every school would also get panic alarms connected to local law enforcement agencies.
"This is the most comprehensive response to school safety, with significant additional resources, that we've seen in the country," Rep. Rick Glazier, D-Cumberland, said Thursday.
Board of Education Chairman Keith Sutton said any funding from the state would be helpful. Harrison agreed, saying that students inside Wake County classrooms can help keep schools safe by talking about potential security risks with teachers and other school officials.
School board member John Tedesco is serving as liaison between the board and the task force.
The school board sparked controversy when it debated placing unarmed security guards in each of the district's 105 elementary schools. The board voted to table that idea at a Jan. 22 meeting, but it wasn't clear when it would return to the agenda.
The task force could take up the issue and study whether unarmed guards would improve school safety.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners blasted the security guard idea, calling it a waste of money that accomplishes nothing.