News: Quick Takes

Special Committee on School Shootings recommends more cops, more investment in mental health for school safety

Making money available for mental health programs and including students in conversations about school safety are among the recommendations in a report from the N.C. Governor’s Crime Commission Special Committee on School Shootings.

The committee on Thursday, Feb. 7 presented the report to Gov. Roy Cooper.

“When parents send their kids to school they expect them to be out of harm’s way, and we owe it to these kids and their families to make sure our schools are safe environments for learning,” Cooper said in a news release.”

The committee was formed after the Feb. 14, 2018, shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, in which 17 people died. The group, composed of various law enforcement and state officials, held five meetings and hosted two public forums in 2018. The committee came up with 22 recommendations in areas of training, physical security, threat intelligence/assessments, school-law enforcement partnerships, and possible statutory changes. An additional 11 recommendations outside of those categories are included in the report.

“The committee members know it is not enough to study an issue and release a report of findings and recommended actions,” said Robert Evans, chairman of the Governor’s Crime Commission. “They know the hard work must continue as we move forward to implement these recommendations to do everything in our power to prevent future tragedies.”

A handful of recommendations in the report include:

  • Enhancing mental health training for school resource officers
  • Developing a best practice model for delineating the difference between law violations and school policy violations
  • Improving school violence incident data collection and data sharing
  • Supporting statewide tip line applications or tip lines
  • Enhancing active shooter drills and requiring vulnerability assessments 
  • Training SROs to teach people in the schools about how to respond to an active-shooter crisis
  • Considering new legislation, including a recommendation for full funding for an SRO to be assigned to every school in the state
  • Working with law enforcement and relevant constituencies to develop a version of the Extreme Risk Protective Order legislation with a chance of passage in North Carolina

The report recommends following through with Cooper’s 2018-19 budget, which adds $55 million for mental health personnel and training. The budget also calls for $15 million for programs to train teachers, school staff, and mental health professionals to identify and respond to student mental health challenges.

The commission’s recommendations overlap with the House Select Committee on School Safety, which unveiled similar recommendations last year. The two groups differ is on gun control legislation, however.

The House committee failed to address gun access, despite interest from some of the Democratic members to talk about the issue. A gun violence protection order, as mentioned in the governor’s commission, would allow North Carolinians to ask the courts to temporarily remove guns from an individual deemed a danger to themselves or to others.