NC lawmakers meet, come up with suggestions to tackle school safety

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV) - North Carolina lawmakers on the School Safety Committee met for the first time Wednesday in Raleigh to discuss ways to keep students safe while at school.

Members met all day in room 643 hearing from several agencies about what the state is doing currently to tackle school safety.

Leaders from the State Bureau of Investigation, the NC Emergency Management Division, the Center for Safer Schools and the NC School Psychology Association all made presentations.

Politicians heard a report from state safety leaders stating since the deadly school shooting in Parkland, FL in February, there has been an uptick in school threats.

State Law Enforcement says it has been challenged tracking down those threats. Politicians also heard the state is lacking in resources when it comes to detecting students who may cause trouble.

"We have not paid enough attention to the profiles that are presented to us," Cumberland County Democratic Representative Marvin Lucas said.  "Potential students who would cause trouble."

Experts claim it will take more funding and better assessments to help identify students who may need extra support.

"I do think it is possible to identify kids that need help,"  Harnett County Republican Representative David Lewis said. "Will you get all of them - No. That's sad, but if we can get more, if we can make things a little bit better, then this committee would have been worthwhile."

Representatives from the North Carolina School Psychology Association told lawmakers that one in five students have a mental/substance use disorder and of that number 75 percent of them will not get the treatment they need in the current system.

The concern is if those kids don't get the support they need, they could cause harm to others or themselves.

"Some counties don't have a social worker," Mecklenburg County Democrat Representative Carla Cunningham said. "Some counties don't have counselors. Some counties don't even have a psychologist. Some have neither."

Another tool lawmakers heard about at the meeting is an app called SpeakUp.

It was only piloted in a few school districts because there was not enough money to implement it in all school districts in North Carolina.

The app allows students to report bullying, drugs and weapons anonymously.

Leaders believe the app could make the difference between life and death.

They say students could be more comfortable to use the app to report danger if they don't want to approach a school resource officer or they can use it to easily notify authorities if something happens after school hours.

"More dollars will definitely be needed," Cunningham said. "Where we are going to get it from, I do not know."

School Resource Officers (SRO's) also came up in today's meeting. Lawmakers were told there is no mandatory training.

Politicians were told more than likely the SRO's will get the necessary training, but lawmakers think they need to make it clear there should be mandatory training.

Parents showed up at the meeting hoping lawmakers will take some action after their day long discussions.

"I do not think it's fair that our children are afraid in their schools," Parent Jessica Hullick said.  "It's not fair, no other country lives like this and we don't have to."

Other suggestions include arming teachers to help keep kids safe. Some politicians weren't excited about that idea.

The next step is sub-committees, that will be formed with public input to determine which ideas lawmakers will recommend to the general assembly in May.

The next school safety committee meeting will be in April.

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