WCPSS addresses school security as group marches in support of stricter gun policies
Posted February 20, 2018 6:44 p.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:41 p.m. EDT
Raleigh, N.C. — A large group on Tuesday night called for stricter gun policies during a march from Pullen Memorial Baptist Church to the State Capitol building.
Young people took to the mic, saying they do not want to live in fear and witness more mass shootings, or perhaps become victims themselves.
Although last week's school shooting happened hundreds of miles away, many believe a similar incident could just as easily happen in the Triangle.
"School is supposed to be a safe place. School is supposed to be for education. Kids should not be scared to go to school," said Jackie Ruiz, a junior at Raleigh Charter High School.
The group lit 17 candles for the 17 victims in Florida, then marched through downtown Raleigh to deliver those candles to the State Capitol Building.
"I need to make sure that my daughter is safe going to school, her friends are safe going to school. I need to be sure I am safe going to different places. I need to make sure my family is safe and, right now, we don't feel safe anymore," said Monica Fuller, an Army veteran who marched with her young daughter.
The students said they are frustrated that years of mass shootings have passed with little change.
"I think this generation can definitely change it if past generations couldn't. We have to be the change, it cannot go on any longer," Ruiz said.
Demonstrators said assault rifles and large capacity magazines are meant for the battlefield, not the streets, and they believe more can be done to keep weapons out of the hands of people who use them for mass murder.
"We need stricter gun laws and our politicians are not doing enough to enforce that," said Matthew Pulido, a junior at Triangle Math and Science Academy.
Wake County school leaders address security following Florida shooting
During a Tuesday night school board meeting, Wake County Public School System leaders praised those students who took a stand by marching.
"I am extremely proud of the students who are standing up and saying 'our generation is going to bring an end to this.’ My generation needs to stand with you, but I’m very proud of this generation standing up,” school board vice-chair Jim Martin said.
Board member Bill Fletcher assured the public that administrators in the coming weeks will be reviewing current district security policies and practices in order to ensure all protocol is being followed as well as to find new ways to make schools safer.
"I do think there is a sense of urgency. I also believe our board and the administration will make prudent decisions and move as quickly as we can to implement whatever enhancements to policy and practice that need to be," Fletcher said.
The district has nearly completed a project to install secure doors and doorbells at all schools, with just two to three more months of work at middle and high schools remaining, he said.
In addition to added security, several board members called for more counselors to be added to schools. Currently, the district only has 100 social workers for 183 schools.
“We need more counselors so students know how to access their emotions and know how to call and work through troubled times and we need more counselors so that when things like this happens, our students know who to go to and how to work through the emotions,” board member Lindsay Mahaffey said.
Mahaffey recalled having to explain to her daughter, who is in kindergarten, the reason she needed to practice hiding in a bathroom during a lockdown drill and hoped that schools across the country are making an effort to help students feel safe.
"I would love school to be a place where a child feels safe and does not have to worry about this anymore," she said.
Martin noted that it's not only the students who feel insecure following mass shootings at schools.
“As someone who goes into the classroom every day, I suspect I speak for almost every teacher that there’s rarely a day that you don’t walk into your classroom wondering ‘will it be my classroom? Will it be my school next?’ You don’t know,” he said.