NC committee says more security, mental health support needed to prevent school shootings

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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A special committee issued several recommendations to Gov. Roy Cooper Thursday to prevent school shootings in North Carolina. 

The North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission Special Committee on School Shootings recommended an increase in training for police and educators, improve physical security at schools, investigate potential threats more and invest in mental health support. 

“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 Cooper. 

The committee’s recommendations come just a week before the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The committee was announced April 19 and was comprised of 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.

One of the committee’s recommendations is to have an officer at every school in the state. A June 2018 by the Department of Public Instruction says there are about 1,200 school resource officers in North Carolina and more than 2,500 public and charter schools.

“That was a suggestion. Can we put police officers in every school? The answer is: we don’t know. But, we’ve got to start somewhere,” said Harrison. “Is it possible? Yes. Is it gonna take some time? Yes. Is it gonna take some money? Yes.”

Precisely how much money is unclear. A spokesperson for the governor said the committee didn’t include an estimate when submitting the report.

The ACLU of North Carolina pushed back on that recommendation.

In an email, Irena Como, senior staff attorney for the ACLU, wrote;

“We do not agree with the recommendation from the Governor’s Crime Commission Special Committee on School Shootings to increase police presence in schools. Evidence shows that police in schools do not make students safer, and school arrests disproportionately harm students of color and students with disabilities. If schools are to be positive learning environments, places that nurture and protect the rights and capacities of all students, we must recognize how school policing and the criminalization of youth of color denies students access to an equitable future. Instead of putting armed police officers in schools, our state should invest in proven solutions that work including increasing the numbers of guidance counselors and trained mental health professionals in schools.”   

The committee also recommends the legislation to establish extreme risk protective orders, in which a judge could order a person’s guns be taken away temporarily if that person is deemed to be dangerous. Rep. Marcia Morey (D-Durham), a former judge, proposed that legislation last year.

“Making our schools safer has been and will continue to be a high priority for our department,” said Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks.

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 Chatham County.

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.

Read the Special Committee on School Shootings report here.

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