North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory accepted the Center for Safer Schools 2013 Report from Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank L. Perry today. The report includes nearly 80 recommendations for the governor, lawmakers and state departments as well as school districts, communities and local law enforcement on how to make North Carolina schools safer and more secure and best practices to achieve that goal.
"School safety is a top priority of my administration," Governor McCrory said. "One of my first actions after taking office was tasking the Department of Public Safety with developing a comprehensive plan to make our schools safer for students, parents, teachers and administrators. We have already begun to implement some of the recommendations outlined in this report, and I look forward to working with the General Assembly, school districts and schools to continue applying best practices for school safety on our campuses. I have asked Secretary Perry for a one-year progress report outlining actions and accomplishments."
Throughout the spring, the Center for Safer Schools hosted nine public forums around the state to collect information from parents, students, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement officers, juvenile justice professionals, mental health professionals and concerned citizens about how North Carolinians can make our schools safer learning environments. The findings from the forums and other resources are compiled in the report, which provides a systematic framework for safer schools that includes four elements: prevention, intervention, crisis response and crisis recovery.
"A chief component of public safety is ensuring our school campuses provide a safe learning environment," said DPS Secretary Frank L. Perry. "The Center for Safer Schools will serve as a resource for schools throughout the state on school safety best practices and the report we presented today lays out a road map of action items to enhance school security. Our goal is to work with local stakeholders to address the physical, mental and social factors that contribute to youth violence so that our schools remain a safe and secure learning environment."
One of the most significant findings in the report is that school safety is everyone's responsibility. Effective, efficient collaboration across state and local entities is a basic requirement. Local collaboration must include active involvement of parents, teachers, administrators, school resource officers and the community at large.
Other recommendations outlined in the report include: educating local schools and school systems on the harmful impacts of bullying and cyber-bullying; seeking evidence-based solutions for bullying prevention; encouraging schools to put in place more effective alternatives to out-of-school suspension; assessment and improvement of physical aspects of schools and school campuses; strategies to encourage positive behavior; establishment of emotional supports such as effective mental health screening, intervention, treatment and other child and family supports; and effective strategies for school resource officers.
Progress has already been made on several of the report's recommendations, including: additional resources for hiring school resource officers in elementary and middle schools; additional resources for panic alarm systems to be put in schools in coordination with local law enforcement; legislation encouraging schools to hold a system wide school safety and school lockdown exercise; and legislation encouraging schools to develop and operate an anonymous tip line to receive information about internal and external safety risks. The Center for Safer Schools is also working to develop an anonymous reporting smart phone application.
During the event, the governor also announced an Executive Order to create a Safer Schools Task Force. The Task Force will be a multidisciplinary advisory board comprised of stakeholders including parents, students, teachers, school administrators, law enforcement officers, juvenile justice professionals, and mental health professionals to provide guidance to the Center for Safer Schools and to consider future policy and legislative action that is needed to improve school safety in North Carolina.
The Task Force will consist of 20 voting members including three at-large members. All members will be appointed by the governor for a two year term and serve at the pleasure of the governor. The Task Force will meet quarterly or upon the call of the governor or the Chair.
The Task Force will have five primary duties:
1. Serve as an Advisory Board to the newly formed Center for Safer Schools.
2. Provide guidance and recommendations to improve statewide policy for the governor and the General Assembly to enhance statewide and local capacities to create safer schools.
3. Encourage interagency collaboration among state and local government agencies to achieve effective policies and streamline efforts to create safer schools
4. Assist the Center for Safer Schools in collecting and disseminating information on recommended best practices and community needs related to creating safer schools in North Carolina.
5. Other duties as assigned by the Governor.