News: Quick Takes

School safety omnibus bill one step closer to becoming law 

A massive school safety bill is nearing a final vote after unanimously passing the N.C. House on Tuesday, July 23.

Senate Bill 5 has been through a lot of edits and back-and-forth discussions, but now all it needs is a vote of concurrence from the Senate before it goes Gov. Roy Cooper for his signature. 

“School safety has been a top priority of the North Carolina legislature and I appreciate my colleagues in the General Assembly continuing to work together to secure classrooms and campuses for millions of students in our state,” House Speaker Tim Moore, R-Cleveland, said in a news release following the vote. 

The school safety omnibus bill is just one attempt from lawmakers to make schools safer after the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 students dead. The House formed the House Select Committee on School Safety a few months after the Florida tragedy. Representatives met several times, listened to presentations from experts, and came up with numerous recommendations on how to make schools safer. Some of those recommendations are included in S.B. 5. 

The school safety omnibus bill includes a requirement for threat assessment teams in all public schools, trauma kits in every public school classroom, and directs DPI to transfer upwards of $1.5 million for a digital panic alarm system. S.B. 5 also defines the role of school safety officers and requires they undergo training. SROs would undergo training on mental health, students with disabilities, racial equity, crisis intervention, and de-escalation.

Under the bill, the school safety requirements apply to all public schools, but non-public schools could participate if they choose to.

Rep. Donna White, R-Johnston, has been instrumental in advocating for school safety measures. White told WRAL that the bill’s passage was an emotional moment. 

“It has just really put North Carolina on the map for being a state that has not waited for that ultimate Parkland or Columbine or Sandy Hook,” Rep. Donna White, R-Johnston, told WRAL. “Not to say that won’t happen — we can’t control what happens — but we’re ready. We’re prepared.”