GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — A day following a school shooting in Nashville, Mark Colebrook, a principal in Goldsboro, said he’s continued to hear questions and concerns. While standing in the school car lot, Colebrook said parents asked several questions including what schools are doing to increase security. He said, “You know, our kids are scared to go to school, and if they hear a threat like that, they don’t want to go to school—what do we do for those kids?”
Colebrook is also the founder of Operation Unite Goldsboro. He said he created the group to bring the community together to address issues and concerns. Tuesday night, Colebrook invited community leaders and the public to voice issues about gun violence and school threats. He said these are issues that have become concerning, not just at a national level, but local level, too.
“Sometimes we just focus on the kids and forget about we have educators who are just as scared about being in a school system,” said Colebrook.
Community leaders from Wayne County Public Schools, Board of Education and the Goldsboro Police Department were among the group discussion. Goldsboro officers said they’ve noted an increase of violence in the city and said the majority of it has involved juveniles between the ages of 13-17.
Goldsboro police said they’ve also continued to respond to school threats including three recent incidents at Goldsboro High School. Police said each call—hoax or not—requires a full response and is treated as a serious situation.
Wayne County Public School Board Member, Tommy Sanders, also voiced his concerns. He said, “It’s a big concern and it terrifies me that something like this could happen at one of our schools.” Sanders said attendance in schools drops by 25-30% the day after a threat.
Both Sanders and Ken Derksen of WCPS said schools have worked to support students and have increased counseling and mental health services during the pandemic. Derksen is the Executive Director of Community Engagement and Student & Family Support. He said schools have continued to utilize access control, added more security cameras, and work closely with law enforcement to practice lockdowns and active shooter drills.
As part of the solution, others in attendance also suggested improving access to resources and increasing community outreach for families. Goldsboro police said officer shortages have made it difficult for the department to do more community engagement events; however, others suggested a larger response from the community. Former North Carolina House Representative, Raymond Smith Jr., said, “Outreach has to be personal, and we cannot account for the lack of technology resources in homes—it’s really going to take a door-to-door approach.”
Colebrook said that he hopes the issues and ideas discussed Tuesday night will be noted and addressed. He said the goal of the roundtable discussions are not only to focus on awareness but also strive for change. Colebrook said the community is prioritizing its youth and added, “We’re coming together to say, hey, what can we do because we don’t want it to happen here—we don’t want to say we didn’t think it was going to happen here.”