School safety initiatives approved by NC House of Representatives
Legislation establishing new school safety initiatives for public schools in North Carolina was approved by the state House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Senate Bill 5 School Safety Omnibus requires public school systems to form threat assessment teams, evaluate the vulnerability of K-12 campuses, and conduct emergency drills to secure North Carolina classrooms.
It also clarifies the powers and duties of the Center for Safer Schools and requires county boards of education to report to state and local management officials during states of emergency.
S.B. 5 would require local boards of education to develop peer-to-peer support programs at all schools with grades six or higher. It also requires the placement of at least one trauma kit in each classroom of every school.
It further creates specific responsibilities for the Center for Safer Schools to serve as a resource and referral center on school safety concerns, provide training for public school personnel, and to collect, analyze, and disseminate data on school safety.
Training standards for School Resource Officers (SROs) must also be established by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission and the North Carolina Sheriffs’ Education and Training Standards Commission under the legislation by January 15, 2020.
Those new training standards for SROs must be completed within one year of assignment to an education campus and include training on mental health, disabilities, racial equity, crisis intervention and de-escalation.
“I am delighted today that the two years of work by the bipartisan House Select Committee for Safer Schools is coming to fruition by the unanimous passage today of this bill,” said Rep. Donna White (R-Johnston), a lead sponsor of the legislation.
The bill also provides $1.5 million in state funds to the Department of Public Safety to continue implementation of a digital panic alarm application based on a May 2018 report of the Division of Emergency Management recommending the tool as a solution for campus security needs.
The funds were remaining from appropriations for the SpeakUp application, an anonymous tip tool that was fully funded by the state General Assembly and will be introduced in every North Carolina public school this fall.
“North Carolina has been a leader since 2013 in the development of safe school pilots and today based on the House’s intent all of that effort and resources can be spread across the state to all public schools and encouragement for all schools to participate,” Rep. White said.
“Our students are our heritage and our promise for the future. They deserve to learn in a safe school.”
Threat assessment teams formed by public schools must include persons with expertise in counseling, law enforcement, administration, and school psychology. Those teams would be required to report imminent threats to the State Bureau of Investigation and local mental health service providers.
The North Carolina House Select Committee on School Safety was formed by Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) in February 2018 following the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Many of the school safety provisions in S.B. 5 were drawn from expert recommendations presented to the committee, which held a series of meetings in local communities across North Carolina last Fall.
“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,” said Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland).
Speaker Moore reauthorized the state House Select Committee on School Safety in March to continue its review of student mental health and campus security across North Carolina.