CMS parent, student share thoughts ahead of “Let’s Talk About Safety Night” sessions

CMS is having six “Let’s Talk About Safety night” sessions between March 16 and April 6.
CMS is having six “Let’s Talk About Safety night” sessions between March 16 and April 6.
Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 6:56 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is hosting weekly sessions for families to talk about school safety.

The Community Partnership and Family Engagement Department and learning community superintendents will host “Let’s Talk About Safety Night” sessions for each of the district’s learning communities.

Parents, students, and community members will have the opportunity to ask questions, learn about safety measures, resources, and have an open discussion.

The first session is Wednesday, March 16 at Myers Park High School from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

To RSVP, click here.

WBTV’s education reporter Courtney Cole spoke to three MPHS parents Tuesday morning, who said they first learned about the sessions from her correspondence with them before 10:30 a.m. Two of those parents then called the school for more information.

A “Mustang Express” newsletter was emailed to families prior to 12:15 p.m. The email included the date, time, and information for the session.

MPHS mom Colette Forrest says only learned about the program from Cole and her principal once she called him.

“The date of the email that I last received from Myers Park was March the 4. I think it would’ve been great for us to receive it in that email and again on March 11, and coupled with the email a robo call and text because safety four our children is extraordinarily important to us parents and we would’ve loved to known about this in a more timely manner,” Forrest said.

Other parents told WBTV they think these sessions are a good idea as long as they are informed about them in advance so they can attend.

“I think that we should’ve received this early and often,” Forrest added.

North Mecklenburg High School student Breana Fowler serves on the CMS district-wide safety task force.

Related: Group evaluating options for addressing safety in CMS schools

For the last three months, she’s had the opportunity to weigh in on safety measures, plan programs, and find ways to get students engaged.

Officials said the group is evaluating potential solutions in the four key areas of personnel, building structures, education, and prevention.

Since the group was formed, CMS announced multiple safety measures including purchasing more than 40,000 clear backpacks for high school students, implementing the “Say Something” anonymous reporting system, and making plans for body scanners.

Related: CMS prepares to roll out clear backpacks in pilot program this spring, other safety measures continue

Last Tuesday, Superintendent Earnest Winston said Cochrane Collegiate Academy and Hopewell High School will be the pilot for the first round of clear backs.

In addition, building assessments were completed for schools to implement body scanners.

Winston says the contract for body scanners for the first phase of schools, which includes seven schools, is complete. There are also schools in Phases 2 and 3.

High Schools in Phase 1 include Harding University, Hopewell, Julius Chambers, West Charlotte, North Mecklenburg, Garinger, and Mallard Creek.

“I think the district should’ve been more strategic about what high schools were the pilots for the body scanners and clear book bags,” Fowler said.

.Last week, Cole spoke to District 1 board member Rhonda Cheek about the selection of schools for the body scanners.

“They’re all great schools and there is a mix of students. Each one of those students is not exactly alike, they all have very different demographics,” Cheek said. In addition, she said schools were picked in different geographic areas.

Forrest says she also has questions about how the body scanners will work.

“I want to find out how intrusive it is. I don’t have a problem with the scanner because these days in times we need to ensure that the children do not have guns on them and they’re not bringing guns in,” Forrest said.

Fowler says the district and principals should focus on building trust first then adding clear backpacks and other measures.

“Students were talking about the culture and how they already don’t have a great relationship with their admin team,” Fowler said. “I think if we work toward having a great relationship with the students and admin then the body scanners and clear book bags and other measurements can come later.”

Forrest says her concerns don’t stop at guns and fights - she wants to hear more on how the district is tackling sexual violence.

“I want to ensure that the sexual assault issues are being appropriately addressed. I want to ensure that young ladies that feel like they’re being put in that situation and under those circumstances, they feel safe to tell someone,” Forrest said.

Fowler also shared students and families will also receive information from local nonprofits such as Pat’s Place child advocacy center and Title IX resources.

Other “Let’s Talk About Safety Night” sessions will be held at South Mecklenburg, West Charlotte, Julius Chambers, East Mecklenburg, Hopewell High Schools.

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