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Student Physical Safety Working Group Approves Recommendations

On Wednesday, the Student Physical Safety Working Group, a subcommittee of the House Select Committee on School Safety, met to vote on seven recommendations, four of which include bill drafts, to send to the full committee for approval this month.

The recommendations and bill drafts are as follows:

  1. The General Assembly should allow nonpublic schools to develop protection policies in cooperation with law enforcement. The full committee should study training and safety requirements that should be in place in order to allow nonpublic schools to provide armed security options
  2. The working group recommends that the full committee study how best to modify the statutory requirements allowing the usage of voluntary school resource officers (SROs) in schools and expand the potential eligible volunteers and provide more security in public schools, while ensuring appropriate training and education for volunteers in the program.
  3. The working group recommends that charter schools, regional schools, and UNC laboratory schools be required to develop a school risk management plan, hold school safety exercises, and provide safety information to local law enforcement and the Division of Emergency Management. Click here for the bill draft.
  4. All school safety resource officers (SROs) must receive appropriate training. The North Carolina Criminal Justice Training and Standards Commission and the North Carolina Sheriffs' Training and Standards Commission will work with the Center for Safer Schools to develop appropriate training and continuing education courses and materials. Click here for the bill draft.
  5. Appropriate an additional $1.8 million for use for grants for school safety resource officers in elementary and middle schools. Click here to view the bill draft.
  6. The Center for Safer Schools should collaborate with the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to develop a “facility vulnerability assessment tool” for use by each local school administrative unit. The working group also recommends that each local school administrative unit be required to use the assessment tool to complete a facility vulnerability assessment of each school building at least once per year. Click here to view the bill draft.
  7. Local boards of education must report annually to the Center for Safer Schools on the number and placement of SROs, including the funding method and employment method for each SRO in the local school administrative unit. The working group also recommends that the Center for Safer Schools be required to report annually to the Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee with an executive summary of the reported information along with the disaggregated data for each local school administrative unit. Click here to view the bill draft.

The committee also heard from Kimberly S. Robb, District Attorney of Pitt County and President of the N.C. Conference of District Attorneys, on recommendations for increasing the consequences and sentences of minors communicating threats to schools and possessing firearms on educational property, as outlined in the bill draft. She suggested increasing various criminal charges, including charging minors who willfully and intentionally possess a handgun with a class A1 misdemeanor, rather than a class 1 misdemeanor. Committee members requested a chart on current offences and sentences before moving forward with recommendations.

“Can someone explain how anything in this bill would have made any difference in Florida?” Rep. Michael Speciale (R-Craven) asked the committee.

The subcommittee voted to approve the seven recommendations and bill drafts and submit them for consideration by the full committee, but postponed recommendations on increasing the charge for minors accused of communicating threats and possessing firearms until after further research and conversation.

Working Group Chairman Rep. John Bell (R-Wayne) stated that the group will also meet during the 2018 short session. To view the full recommendations, click here. To view the bill drafts, click here.

The House Select Committee on School Safety will meet May 10 to consider these recommendations and those from the Student Health Working Group and determine which to send forward for consideration and action during the legislative short session that begins May 16.

Jacqueline Wyatt for NCASA