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Cabarrus Co. Schools, law enforcement discuss school safety

School safety is a major topic of interest following the Texas elementary school shooting.
Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent Dr. John Kopicki said having safety protocols, practicing them, and re-evaluating them is an ongoing effort.
Published: May. 26, 2022 at 8:08 PM EDT
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CONCORD, N.C. (WBTV) - Safety in schools is an all-hands-on-deck effort.

WBTV is asking school leaders what measures they have in place to protect all staff and students.

Cabarrus County Schools Superintendent Dr. John Kopicki said having safety protocols, practicing them, and re-evaluating them is an ongoing effort.

“Safety is always our priority,” Kopicki said. “It’s the first and last thing we talk about all the time. We have a lot of safety protocols in place that we’re constantly reviewing and discussing and make sure that we’re following those proper processes and procedures on a routine basis, that we don’t get lax or complacent.”

Kopicki said Tuesday’s deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas is a reminder to be vigilant.

“That comes down to securing the doors, making sure that we have secure vestibules, making sure that we’re constantly on the perimeter of our schools, and making sure who is in our buildings,” he said.

In addition to securing entrances, all visitors are required to present a valid identification card or driver’s license when entering any school or administrative building.

Cabarrus County Schools also partners with the Concord Police Department and Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s a partnership that the safety of the schools is not created in a vacuum,” Major Todd McGhee of Concord PD said. “It takes a village, really, to ensure that safety.”

Both agencies provide a combined total of 40 school resource officers, which ensures there is an SRO at each elementary, middle and high school.

Van Shaw, the Cabarrus County Sheriff, says this partnership is critical.

“The Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office’s School Resource Officers play a key role in the safety and security of our schools. Their priority is the safety of the students and the development of strong relationships with those students to keep lines of communication open,” Shaw said.

“The SROs work closely with school staff and students to ensure a safe environment for learning. We also have a strong relationship with the Cabarrus County School Administrative Staff and communicate with them on a daily basis to address any concerns with the safety of our students.”

Officer Fred Riddick is an SRO at an elementary school in the district. He says clear communication is key to assessing potential threats.

“Sometimes they’ll see things that I might not see while walking around on campus, being able to communicate with them and know what we’re looking for as far as intruders or any suspicious activity - is crucial with that relationship with the school system,” Riddick said.

The schools also practice safety drills daily, which can vary from lockdowns to severe weather.

“We do lockdown drills, blackout drills, tornado drills, all kinds of stuff like that so the training of not only the students but the staff as well is an important factor,” Riddick said.

Union County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Andrew Houlihan says his district is also discussing current safety protocols following the deadly shooting at Robb Elementary School.

“We spent time with law enforcement officials yesterday reviewing and evaluating what we’re currently doing based on that feedback and the work of our safety committee,” Houlihan said. “We are very well positioned to address the physical safety issues in a very proactive way.”

UCPS partners with the county’s sheriff’s office, Monroe Police Department, and other local law enforcement agencies to provide SRO’s at its 11 high schools, nine middle schools, 30 elementary and three specialty schools.

UCPS also has HID readers which are used to secure entrances with card readers that allow access to entrances.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has nearly 70 SROs from CMPD, Huntersville, Matthews, Cornelius, Davidson and the CMS Police Department.

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