More training, better physical security and threat assessments, more mental health support for schools among recommendations
Raleigh—To strengthen school safety and help prevent school shootings, North Carolina schools needs to:
- ramp up training for law enforcement and educators,
- improve physical security at schools,
- gather better information about potential threats,
- and invest in more mental health support for schools.
Those are among the recommendations made by the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission Special Committee on School Shootings in a report presented this week to Governor Roy Cooper.
“When parents send their kids to school they expect them to be out of harm’s way, and we owe it to these kids and their families to make sure our schools are safe environments for learning,” said Gov. Cooper. “I appreciate the work of this committee and I look forward to continuing to work with them as well as other parents, law enforcement officers and educators to push for safer schools.”
Prompted by the violent shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, 2018, as well as other school shootings across the United States, Department of Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks requested that the Governor’s Crime Commission establish the Special Committee on School Shootings. Announced on April 19, 2018, the Special Committee includes sheriffs, juvenile justice experts, court officials, educators and other experts and is chaired by Gaston County Sheriff Alan Cloninger and former Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison.
“I want to thank the members of the committee and Governor’s Crime Commission staff for their work on this most important issue. I asked the Special Committee to approach their work with a “whole of community“ and “whole of government” mindset because we must all work together to keep our schools safe,” said Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks. “Making our schools safer has been and will continue to be a high priority for our department.”
The group held five meetings and hosted well-attended public forums in Greenville and Greensboro in 2018. These public forums were designed to ensure that community voices and ideas were heard and incorporated into the Special Committee’s report.
The Special Committee made 22 recommendations in the following areas: Training; Physical Security; Threat Intelligence/Assessment; School – Law Enforcement Partnerships; and possible Statutory Changes. The members included an additional 11 recommendations outside of these categories.
“Keeping our schools safe requires law enforcement, educators and communities working together toward a common goal and applying common sense,” said Alan Cloninger, sheriff of Gaston County 2004-present.
“One major focus for us is how to provide all levels of law enforcement with the training and tools necessary to prevent these tragedies. Another key focus is making sure law enforcement and educators communicate more effectively about school threats so they can be addressed quickly and comprehensively,” said Donnie Harrison, sheriff of Wake County 2002-2018.”
Several of the committee’s recommendations echo Gov. Cooper’s own proposals to make schools safer, including more funding for mental health experts in schools, better training for teachers to recognize students at risk, and establishing gun violence protection orders so that North Carolinians can ask the courts to take guns away temporarily from an individual who is a danger to themselves or the community.
Among the recommendations in the report:
• More School Resource Officers (SROs) in schools.
• Enhanced mental health training for SROs.
• Train SROs to teach schools how to respond to an active shooter crisis.
• Require vulnerability assessments of schools to identify ways to make school buildings safer, including placement and use of security cameras and alarm systems.
• Require local schools, law enforcement and emergency responders to work together on active shooter drills.
• Support multi-disciplinary threat assessment teams (including SROs or law enforcement) to meet regularly, share information and discuss possible threats to school safety.
• A statewide tip line or application for reporting threats to schools.
• Improve data collected on incidents of school violence.
• Fund the Governor’s budget requests for more mental health personnel and training for schools.
• Train law enforcement and educators to communicate more effectively about school threats.
• Develop Gun Violence Protection Orders to provide a legal process to temporarily remove guns from a dangerous individual.
“I can think of nothing more important than safeguarding the lives of our children,” said Robert Evans, chairman of the Governor’s Crime Commission. “The committee members know it is not enough to study an issue and release a report of findings and recommended actions. They know the hard work must continue as we move forward to implement these recommendations to do everything in our power to prevent future tragedies.”