CHARLOTTE, NC — School security plans in North Carolina should include a community-wide response, including rapid deployment of law enforcement, increased training, community reporting of threats and support of youth mental health and wellness, according to the Gov. Roy Cooper and the state’s top public safety official.
Cooper, along with Secretary of Public Safety Erik Hooks, sent letters outlining their priorities to school officials and law enforcement agencies throughout the state Wednesday.
Not included in the March 7 recommendations for a comprehensive security plan, however, was a call to arm teachers, something Cooper and State Superintendent Mark Johnson have recently come out against.
"We are shocked and saddened as we learn more about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last month. This was a senseless act of violence," Cooper said his letter sent to school administrators and law enforcement officials. "But thoughts and prayers alone will not prevent this from happening again," he said.
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Cooper urged school administrators throughout the state to include local law enforcement and emergency management agencies in active shooter drills at schools.
"These drills provide important opportunities to discuss simulated emergency situations in a low-stress environment helping ensure Risk Management Plans are updated and clear," Cooper said.
Efforts to prevent a Florida-style shooting in North Carolina will require a community effort, Hooks said. "Partnerships are essential to identifying potential threats, preventing acts of mass violence before they occur, and providing a coordinated response if the unthinkable happens here," Hooks wrote.
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While School Resource Officers are trained in rapid deployment, they can go for extended periods without using the skills, Hooks said. "Please make sure officers in your community are trained in rapid deployment and keep these skills updated," he added.
Schools should make sure they have updated emergency response kits and consider youth and adult mental health first aid training, he said.
Cooper also encouraged students and their families to share information about potential threats they see to local law enforcement. "Reporting suspicious or criminal activity can be done anonymously," Cooper said. "Reluctance to report threats can delay response, while sharing information can prevent a tragic event. If you see or hear something, say something."
Several school-related threats have been reported in the Charlotte-metro region in the past month, resulting in school evacuations and arrests. Hickory Ridge High School in Harrisburg was evacuated Tuesday morning after a written threat was found in a girl’s bathroom. Scrawled across the crumpled paper in blue marker, it read, "Let’s make another Parkland High School." In late February, a 14-year-old high school freshman was arrested and charged by Salisbury police for making threats to "shoot up" the school, which led the school to spend two days on lockdown.
What do you think about the state’s approach to secure North Carolina schools? Sound off in the comment section.
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