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State working to improve school safety

State leaders are urging local law enforcement and school districts to work closely together to ensure that all North Carolina schools are safe and offered state tools and resources to help. 

The Governor’s Crime Commission and the State Emergency Response Commission will apply their expertise to prioritize school safety, Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks announced earlier this month.

In addition, Governor Roy Cooper and Secretary Hooks sent letters asking school superintendents, local law enforcement agency heads, charter school principals and independent schools to work together and with the state to prevent further school tragedies.

“We are shocked and saddened as we learn more about the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last month. This was a senseless act of violence. We mourn for the lives lost, their families and friends, and pray for the community at large as they deal with this tragedy,” Governor Cooper said in the letter. “But thoughts and prayers alone will not prevent this from happening again. We must work together to ensure that our schools are safe places for children to grow and learn.”

Governor Cooper in his letter called on schools to include local law enforcement and emergency management in their annual school-wide preparedness drills. He also encouraged educators, families and students to share information regarding threats or potential threats with school leaders and law enforcement.

Secretary Hooks in his letter recommended these additional steps to protect schools and communities:

– More rapid deployment training for law enforcement

– Updating school emergency response kits

– Ensuring knowledge of and training on best practices

– Support positive youth mental health and wellness

– Continuously share information on potential threats

Secretary Hooks addressed members of the Governor’s Crime Commission on the issue of school safety, announcing that the Commission will convene a special committee to collaborate on solutions to improve school safety.

“Tragically, school shootings have become too common an occurrence in this country. It is imperative that we utilize every resource available to examine and address threats to our children and educators,” Secretary Hooks said. “We owe it to the people of this state, and most of all our children, to do everything we can to prevent tragedies like what occurred in Parkland, Florida from ever happening again.”

In a letter to Crime Commission members, Secretary Hooks said the committee would include members representing law enforcement, juvenile justice, courts, schools, behavioral health, and others and will identify resources and develop recommendations to strengthen school safety. Secretary Hooks also asked the committee to conduct community forums to gather and share information, listen to concerns and identify possible strategies for preventing gun violence in schools.

Secretary Hooks also asked the State Emergency Response Commission to convene a special committee charged with enhancing school safety. In a letter to commission vice chair Michael Sprayberry, Secretary Hooks tasked the new group with identifying resources and making recommendations to address potential threats and promoting best practices for incident response throughout the state’s school systems. “Our goal is to provide to public safety officials guidance and recommendations on planning, training and response to active assailant incidents,” Hooks noted.

“Addressing the crisis of school violence requires a comprehensive and collaborative approach that involves the community, mental health and public safety professionals,” Secretary Hooks told the Governor’s Crime Commission members. “Our children and teachers deserve our full commitment to address violence in our schools.”

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