Education

Safety survey: Most NC middle, high schools use resource officers

Posted March 7, 2013 1:08 p.m. EST
Updated March 7, 2013 4:21 p.m. EST

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

— A January survey of the state's 115 school systems by the North Carolina School Boards Association shows that approximately 95 percent of school districts allow all school resource officers to carry firearms but that local school boards are concerned about how to pay for additional officers.

According to the survey, 82.7 percent of North Carolina high schools and 74.7 percent of middle schools have a school resource officer, while only 3.6 percent of elementary schools do.

All resource officers in 108 school districts are allowed to carry firearms, while only some are allowed guns in two districts.

In Wake County, for example, 57 of the district's 64 middle and high schools have school resource officers, all of whom carry weapons. None of the 105 elementary schools, however, has resource officers.

Leanne Winner, director of NCSBA government relations, said Thursday that the goal of the survey was to gather up-to-date information – the last data available was from 2008 – about school security measures to foster a conversation with state leaders.

One concern that was consistent among districts, she said, was financial resources to provide additional security.

"We are obviously starting to have lots of conversations about whether the financial resources will be available from the state to provide additional school resource officers," Winner said.

According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, about 55 percent of funding for school resource officers comes from the state.

The NCSBA, which represents the interests of local school boards in the state, presented its findings Thursday to the North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission. The commission will make decisions, based on the information presented, at its June planning meeting.

Concerns about school security and student safety have been heightened across the country following the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which 20 first-graders and six adults died before the 20-year-old gunman killed himself.

Since the Newtown shootings, some North Carolina officials have called for more funding for schools.

Attorney General Roy Cooper wrote to Gov. Pat McCrory in January asking that lawmakers follow up on recommendations from a 2006 school safety report that suggested more school resource officers and more training for educators on how to recognize and respond to potential safety threats.