CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - In the wake of the Butler High School shooting in Matthews, and after several guns were recently found on Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) campuses, the district is focusing on safety.
In an effort to keep "a safe, secure Circle of Safety for all students and teachers in every CMS school," officials announced extra recommendations to keep guns out of schools.
The district will be taking several enhanced safety measures, including random wand screenings. The district says that will start after the winter break. CMS Superintendent Dr. Clayton Wilcox emphasized that the random selection does not refer to students, but rather to schools.
CMS has already ordered 50 of the $300 wands. Wilcox thinks it will take staff about five seconds to wand a single student.
"Random does not mean we are going to select individual students," Wilcox said. "It means we are going to select individual locations. It means we are going to go into a school on an unpredictable basis and take a look at what everyone is bringing to school."
Wilcox, joined by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police (CMPD) Chief Kerr Putney, expanded on the district's new and existing security measures Thursday afternoon.
"This is not just a school problem – it's a community problem," Wilcox said. "We are taking action to keep weapons out of schools because we want all students to have safe, secure environments that promote academic growth. Our focus in schools should be on education."
"Schools should be a safe place for students," Wilcox said. "Now is the time to do something more to keep students safe. The time has come to take additional actions to keep guns out of schools."
Putney had recommended metal detectors go into schools, but Wilcox didn't feel comfortable with that. He thought they wouldn't be feasible, especially at schools with big campuses and multiple entrances. Putney understood Wilcox's stance and now supports what the superintendent has recommended.
"This is a good day for the children, the students at CMS. Those that are in authority are doing all they can to keep kids safe - that's huge," Putney said.
The district says things need to be done at the school, district, personal, and community levels in order to keep schools safe.
Wilcox said the district would be implementing several new safety measures, including:
- Random wand screenings at high schools
- Random backpack checks
- Camera expansion, including to mobile classrooms
- Panic buttons for teachers
- Electronic keyless entry systems
- monitoring to athletic fields, maintenance buildings
- Social media monitoring for threat assessment
- More frequent updates to parents (instant text messages)
- Production of a lockdown video
- Posting video of active survival training (for students and parent’s knowledge)
- More social workers and guidance counselors
CMS will invest in additional guidance counselors. "We have to invest in these relationships," Wilcox said, referring to the social and emotional health of our children.
CMS Police Chief Lisa Mangum says the emotional support is needed and the extra counselors and social workers can tackle the reasons why students bring guns to school in the first place.
“We need to continue to provide resources that will help these kids deal with the problems they are dealing with at home,” CMS Police Chief Lisa Mangum said. "Or in their neighborhood.
Wilcox mentioned another resource: Stand Up and Speak Out against bullying, an anonymous bully reporting system.
"CMS will not tolerate weapons on our campuses," Wilcox said, adding that the district would prosecute to the fullest extent any student with a gun at school.
"Kids know that guns kill," Wilcox said. "When they see a gun on campus, they act."
There is no word on how much these improvements will cost the district, but Wilcox says that shouldn't be a problem.
“We can’t say to our community we don’t have the money,” Wilcox said. “We are a $1.5 billion organization. The safety of our kids is our highest priority.”
The district has also launched a new safety website with recommendations, protocols and resources. You can find that website here.