In the wake of the tragic shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte last month, Governor Roy Cooper and his public safety team are urging local education and local law enforcement personnel to renew their efforts to work together for safer schools and to use state tools and resources available to help protect North Carolina schools from senseless acts of mass violence.
In letters sent this week to school superintendents, local sheriffs and chiefs of police, and charter and independent school principals, Gov. Cooper and Secretary of Public Safety Erik A. Hooks urged schools and local law enforcement to work together and with the state to prevent further school tragedies. The letters also explained the ongoing efforts to prevent violence in schools, including school safety measures Gov. Cooper included in his budget plan, and recommendations made by the Governor’s Crime Commission.
“Last month, the horror and senseless violence of a school shooting happened here, when a shooter opened fire on the campus of UNC-Charlotte, killing two students and injuring four,” Governor Cooper said in his letter. “This tragedy underscores that school administrators should continue to include local law enforcement and emergency management agencies in their annual school-wide preparedness drills. These partnerships are vital to our ability to provide a coordinated response like we saw at UNC-Charlotte.”
The governor’s budget plan provides $40 million to hire more school nurses, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and school resource officers and $15 million for safety improvements and training at K-12 schools. These additional resources are among the recommendations included in a report by the North Carolina Governor’s Crime Commission Special Committee on School Shootings issued earlier this year.
Governor Cooper in his letter called on educators, families, and students to share information regarding real or potential threats with school leaders and local law enforcement and stressed that reporting suspicious activity to officials prevents tragedies and saves lives.
“I commend the swift action of the first responders in Charlotte whose response saved many lives. I am grateful for the work you do to keep our communities and our schools safe. As leaders in public safety and education, it is imperative we join with community partners to find solutions for preventing school violence,” Secretary Hooks said in his letter. “Only through our continued and collective efforts, will we keep our schools and our students safe.”
Secretary Hooks in his letter discussed recent initiatives to enhance the safety of North Carolina’s schools, including:
- Final report from Governor’s Crime Commission Special Committee on School Shootings – The report from the special committee, established in April 2018 at the direction of Secretary Hooks’ to identify resources and develop recommendations to strengthen school safety, identified 33 recommendations in the areas of training, physical security, threat intelligence and assessment, school-law enforcement partnerships, and possible statutory changes. The recommendations included: additional school resource officers (SROs) in schools, with enhanced mental health and active shooter response training for all SROs; required vulnerability assessments for schools, to identify ways to make buildings safer; creation of a statewide tip line or application for reporting threats to schools; and training of law enforcement and educators in ways to communicate more effectively about school threats.
- Establishment of the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) Behavioral Threat Analysis (BeTA) Unit – The SBI created the BeTA Unit to assist North Carolina law enforcement in evaluating persons of concern through an evidence-based threat assessment process. This process is intended to determine if a person of concern is exhibiting behaviors consistent with a pathway to violence and identify appropriate management and mitigation strategies for the individual.
- Development/Implementation of the School Risk and Response Management System – The NC DPS Emergency Management team is developing and implementing the School Risk and Response Management System (SRRMS), which provides resources for law enforcement, emergency responders, and educators such as digital floor plans/schematics, school risk management plans and a future integration of digital panic alarm software.
- Enhanced Collaboration between State and Local Law Enforcement – participation in emergency drills, increased frequency of school safety checks, and rapid deployment and active shooter training.
- Active Collaboration Between Education and Public Safety – DPS’s Juvenile Justice section is actively engaged with its local education agency partners, working with school staff and local law enforcement to properly place juveniles who make threats against schools and get them the right services at the right time. Juvenile Justice is also collaborating with the North Carolina Center for Safer Schools to develop school threat assessment team policies and is finalizing a juvenile services resource guide that will allow schools and law enforcement to directly refer youth to appropriate programs and services in their community.