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Report: We all must proactively work together to keep schools safe

Group of people in meeting in large room
Friday, February 8, 2019 - 2:04pm

DPS Secretary Erik A. Hooks knows that keeping our schools safe requires a “whole of community” and “whole of government” approach. That’s why, in April 2018, he charged the Governor’s Crime Commission’s Special Committee on School Shootings (SCSS) with developing recommendations reflective of that concept to present to Gov. 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 in receiving the report.  “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.” 

In 2018, the SCSS conducted a series of well-attended public meetings to collect input, share information and determine its recommendations. Presenters included education and law enforcement leaders, legislators, academics and student groups. 

The SCSS also hosted two public forums, in Greensboro and Greenville, which drew considerable interest and allowed the public an opportunity to provide additional input and ideas. Voices included concerned parents eager to be kept apprised in emergencies, and students who are growing up in a time when active shooter drills are an unfortunate reality and necessity. “The fear of gun violence is very real,” attested one student. Speakers also stressed the need for recommendations to be followed up with funding and action after the report’s release.

Input for the report was collected, and recommendations were made, along five themes: 

  • Training including preparation of school resource officers
  • Physical security to identify vulnerabilities in school buildings
  • Threat intelligence and assessment including the support of teams to detect potential threats and identify at-risk students
  • School and law enforcement partnerships to facilitate dialogue and understanding
  • Possible statutory changes and budgetary support for priorities such as placing mental health experts in schools

In the report, the committee makes 22 recommendations in the above categories and 11 additional recommendations. Several of the recommendations echo Gov. Cooper’s own proposals to make schools safer, such as 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.

The SCSS worked to bring different groups together using language everyone can understand. Noting that “common sense isn’t so common,” co-chairs Alan Cloninger and Donnie Harrison, both having worn the hat of sheriff, were determined to use the reality check of common sense throughout the committee’s work.

With the release of the SCSS report, North Carolinians will see that everyone— law enforcement, school personnel, government leaders, students and parents — shares responsibility to keep schools safe. 

To learn more about the SCSS, read the full report with the specific recommendations.