House Select Committee On School Safety Approves Recommendations For Short Session
On Thursday, the House Select Committee on School Safety met to finalize its report to the 2018 General Assembly so that lawmakers from both the House and Senate can consider recommendations for school safety enhancements once their short session begins May 16. The report contains 15 findings and recommendations including related bill drafts.
The recommendations and bill drafts are as follow:
- Accept the national certified school psychologist credential as complete fulfillment of the requirements for licensure as a school psychologist in NC, ensuring reciprocity for those credentialed from other states.
- Continue to work toward meeting national recommendations for staffing of student support positions – school counselors, psychologists, social workers and nurses – to ensure and improve care and intervention for the social and emotional needs of students.
- Require threat assessment teams in all public schools to better assess and intervene in potential threats within the school setting.
- Require peer to peer counseling programs in middle and high schools to identify and assist students with social, emotional, and behavioral needs.
- Further study and develop a plan to efficiently coordinate care among mental health support professionals and to train these professionals to identify potentially dangerous mental and behavioral health issues. Rep. Josh Dobson (R-McDowell) recommended adding school counselors to the list of professionals, while Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) recommended engaging Local Management Entity/Managed Care Organizations (LME/MCOs) and employing Health First Aid and Crisis Intervention Training to mental health support professionals. Both recommendations were approved by the committee.
- The House Select Committee on School Safety should explore expansion statewide of applications that allow anonymous reporting on potential threats, abuse, or related issues (such as the Speak Up NC app).
- Further study armed security options for nonpublic schools, as well as allowing nonpublic schools to develop protection policies in cooperation with law enforcement.
- Supporting LME/MCOs and advancing their statewide implementation, including school-based care coordination, mental health first aid training for students, teachers, and school staff, suicide prevention, and Youth Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and specific CIT training for SROs.
- Continue studying how to best modify the statutory requirements in order to expand the potential eligible volunteers and provide more security in public schools, while ensuring appropriate training and education.
- Require charter schools, regional schools, and UNC laboratory schools, and to encourage nonpublic schools, to develop a school risk management plan including schematic diagrams, emergency access for local law enforcement, and school crisis kits, hold school safety exercises, and provide school safety information, including updated schematic diagrams and emergency response information to local law enforcement and the Division of Emergency Management.
- Implement training and continuing education requirements for School Resource Officers (SROs), including requiring all SROs to comply with training requirements, established by the North Carolina Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission and the North Carolina Sheriff’s Education and Training Standards Commission in collaboration with the NC Center for Safer Schools.
- Appropriate an additional, recurring $1.8 million to fund grants for SROs in elementary and middle schools beginning in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
- Require each facility to conduct annual vulnerability assessments and to use the tool developed by the NC Center for Safer Schools and Department of Public Instruction, Division of School Operations.
- Require local boards of education to report on SROs annually by September 15 in writing to the NC Center for Safer Schools on the number of SROs and the placement of each officer. The report will also include the source of funding and method of employment for each SRO.
- The committee recommends the General Assembly enact House Bill 285, Suicide Prevention/Awareness School Personnel. This bill states that the State Board of Education and the Department of Health and Human Services shall develop a youth suicide awareness and prevention training program and a model risk referral protocol for districts and charter schools, as well as implementing training and protocol requirements for school personnel. This bill passed the House of Representatives, by a vote of 109 to 7 on April 24, 2017, and is eligible for consideration during the 2018 short session. The bill
Rep. Darren Jackson (D- Wake) expressed concern for the allotted amount to School Resource Officers (SROs), stating that it was an $80 million need but the report only recommends $1.8 million.
“We are not protecting our kids to the full extent we can,” he said. He stated that in order to “get a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun,” we need the funding to have more SROs in schools.
Committee members stated their support for various other aspects of the report, including increasing the number of school counselors, nurses, and psychologists, and the statewide implementation of the Speak Up NC app, or a similar app.
The committee also heard from General Assembly staff on two bill drafts regarding possible changes to criminal penalties for making a false report of mass violence, communicating a threat of mass violence on school property, or obtaining firearms on educational property, and the possession of handguns by minors. District Attorney Kim Robb had presented to the Subcommittee on Physical Safety on May 2 her recommendations for elevating these criminal changes. However, several committee members voiced concern about including these bills in the final report to the Assembly without more collaboration and research on different levels of criminal charges and how other states are handling these cases.
“I would like for not any of this to be added to our recommendations today,” said Rep. Yvonne Holley (D- Wake). Several committee members agreed, stating that some students might acquire a firearm by accident or that some penalty changes might be too strict for youthful mistakes and ultimately ruin their future.
Chairman Rep. John Torbett (R- Gaston) stated these bill drafts would be held until a later date when the committee has more supporting information to consider them further.
Lastly, following the committee’s vote of approval on the report, Chairman Torbett told the committee to “saddle up.”
“We will continue this very, very, very needed look at the safety of our students on all of our educational campuses,” he said, and indicated the committee may meet during the short session and that this report is only the beginning of its work.