Today, during a press conference at Apex Middle School, Governor Pat McCrory announced the creation of the N.C. Center for Safer Schools, which will serve as the state's primary point of contact on issues related to school safety.
"My top priority for public safety in North Carolina is to ensure our children are safe, especially in our schools," said Governor McCrory. "It is imperative that we prevent all forms of potential violence. The Center for Safer Schools will develop a comprehensive strategy of best practices throughout the state and country to protect our children, teachers, school administrators and our communities."
The Center for Safer Schools, which will be administered through the Division of Juvenile Justice, will provide a clearinghouse of school safety information to schools, law enforcement, youth-serving agencies, juvenile justice officials, community leaders, policymakers, parents and students. In addition to creating a website and toll-free phone number, Center staff will help schools assess site safety issues; work on-site with communities and schools who are experiencing unacceptable levels of school and youth violence; and provide community or school presentations on topics such as emerging trends in school violence, safe school and site assessment, gang prevention and risk identification.
The Center will assist schools in ensuring that its personnel are equipped, trained and have the skills required to make schools safer. This could include the creation of a set of basic certification standards and updated training for school resource officers. The Center will also convene outside experts for presentations and assessments on topics related to crisis prevention, planning, response and recovery from a wide array of fields, including: juvenile justice, mental health, security, emergency management, education, law enforcement and public health.
"Our vision for the Center for Safer Schools is that it will be a meaningful, authentic and customer-driven program," said Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan. "We're not here to tell schools and communities what to do. We want to work with schools, communities and families on an individual basis to meet their localized needs."
The Center for Safer Schools will hold eight community forums across the state in April to learn about local concerns and challenges related to school safety. Findings and feedback from these forums will be compiled into a report to Governor McCrory.
Shanahan introduced Kym Martin of Apex as the Center's executive director. Martin has served as a classroom teacher and administrator, and is a parent with four children in North Carolina public schools.