After Sandy Hook Elementary School faced tragedy when a gunman killed 20 students and six adults, North Carolina took action to promote school safety.
And now, more than a year after the Connecticut shootings, the state is continuing its efforts.
Gov. Pat McCrory created and appointed members to the Governor’s Task Force on Safer Schools under the N.C. Department of Public Safety in the fall.
Task force members include administrators, a parent, a student and a school resource officer, said Diana Kees, spokeswoman for the N.C. Department of Public Safety.
“Basically they’re put into place to advise the Center for Safer Schools to talk about what are some of the best practices that are out there,” she said.
Kees said the task force will meet four times a year, and the next meeting should be in late March.
The task force met for the first time Dec. 4 — the same day the Sandy Hook 911 tapes were released.
The task force set up three committees at the meeting: Physical Security and Emergency Preparedness, which will be made up of law enforcement, Mental Health or Children with Special Needs and School Climate and Discipline, Kees said.
The groups will report).pdf back to the task force at the next meeting, she said.
Task force members will use the guidelines released last year in a report by the Center for Safer Schools to McCrory. The guidelines include providing additional school resource officers, nurses and psychologists.
In July, the N.C. General Assembly provided funding for additional school resource officers and panic alarms in schools across the state.
“That’s kind of a guiding light right now for a lot of the things,” Kees said. “I’m sure that’s going to be a starting point.”
To create the report, the center conducted nine public forums across the state last spring, asking communities for suggestions to improve school safety.
But William Lassiter, director of juvenile community programs at the Department of Public Safety, said at the inaugural meeting that weapon possession in schools has increased despite the state’s actions.
“The number one reason why a kid brings a gun to school is for protection,” he said. “If we want to prevent major incidences of school violence, we have to prevent bullying first.”
Lassiter said he believed increased efforts to curb bullying would prevent students bringing weapons to campus.
“It’s going to take everybody in this room,” he said. “It’s going to take a collaborative approach, and it’s going to take multiple disciplines to be involved to create safer schools.”
School districts are also making changes to improve their students’ safety.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools formed the Superintendent Safety Council to review schools’ safety measures, spokesman Jeff Nash said.
He said the council will be made up of school resource officers, principals and police chiefs from Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
“We are looking at how can we best ensure that our students at Chapel Hill or Carrboro are safe,” he said.
The council hired a consultant to make a safety assessment and give recommendations for improvement, Nash said.
This consultant will visit sites in February and draw up a report of recommendations, he said.
But Nash said the school system also has to be realistic about how much money can be spent when following through on these recommendations.
“If there are things that we can do that don’t cost very much, certainly we want to do them,” he said. “Hopefully we are already doing some of those things.”
Nash said the council will also look through recommendations made by the safer schools task force as they are released.
“I think we had safe schools before, however, the incidents in Connecticut have caused people to review their plans,” he said.
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