Safer Schools in North Carolina: What Parents Need to Know


Published:

Recent events, such as tornadoes in the Midwest and the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings, have spurred the nation's school districts to re-examine school security procedures. North Carolina's schools are no exception to this movement.

Several North Carolina school districts have created committees to review school safety measures and the state government recently formed the N.C. Center for Safer Schools within the N.C. Department of Public Safety.

"Gov. McCrory set up the center in March of this year partly as a response to Sandy Hook in December and because there have been a lot of concerns brought to him about school safety in North Carolina," says Kym Martin, executive director of NCCSS.

Following months of gathering data from across the state, NCCSS representatives made recommendations to Gov. Pat McCrory on key areas of concern to North Carolina citizens. Martin says NCCSS identified the following as recurring themes:

- Physical security at schools.

- Mental health agencies and the need for collaboration with schools.

- Roles of school resource officers.

- Programs to involve parents, including dads and male caregivers.

- Trusted adult mentors for students.

- Creative ways to handle school suspension.

- Bullying and cyberbullying.

Bullying: a prime culprit

A common complaint among students across the country and in North Carolina is bullying. In 2009, about 28 percent of students nationwide ages 12-18 reported being bullied in school, according to the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics. Additionally, 6 percent reported being cyberbullied outside of school. "Students (across the state) talked about knowing someone who had been bullied or being bullied themselves, and some felt they had people they could turn to while others did not," Martin says.

Ben Matthews, director of Healthy and Safe Schools for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, says it's important for students to report bullying behavior when they see it.

"If we see a fellow student in crisis, we share that with an appropriate adult, be it a teacher or a counselor," he says, noting that the School Safety Act legislation currently making its way through the legislature includes recommendations for more school counselors and resource officers.

Existing measures

Current safety measures at North Carolina public schools include drills, such as lockdown procedures and fire drills; the use of surveillance cameras; and various types of visitor check-in systems. Middle, high and some elementary schools also have school resource officers. Lockdown procedures typically use codes (red, yellow and green) to communicate safety threats. See the box, "Tap into School Safety," for a detailed description and helpful links.

Schools also receive a Critical Incident Response Kit, which provides information and materials to help schools respond to a crisis.

Russ Smith, senior director of Wake County Public School System's security department, says the $810 million bond request from the Wake County Board of Commissioners planned for the October 2013 ballot includes a security element and is the only way to fund certain costly, systemwide security measures. WCPSS administrators are also working to develop a system for an anonymous tip line. "Every school administration should have the same tools in the toolbox to keep children as safe as possible," Smith says.

Durham Public Schools plans to send home a new parent guide this fall that specifically addresses what parents should know or do if there is an emergency at school, says Tamika Puckett, DPS's director of risk management.

Re-examining school safety

The Task Force for Creating Safer Schools in Wake County, created by WCPSS Board Chariman Keith Sutton in February, released a report in June that recommended making sure every school has a bullying prevention program, sufficient counseling staff, proper surveillance and a minimum of quarterly drills for evacuation and lockdown procedures. The task force did not recommend arming school staff members.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools formed the Superintendent's Safety Council to measure and improve campus security. This group includes chiefs of police from the towns of Chapel Hill and Carrboro, and expects to contract with a safety consultant.

"We believe our schools are safe places for children and staff," says Jeff Reilly, chairman of the CHCS Superintendent's Safety Council. "However, we will never rest on our safety record. We now, and always will, continue to seek out strategies that improve security at our schools."

Parent involvement is key

North Carolina officials say one of the best ways to create safer schools is for parents and students to get involved in school safety. Tina Ingram, DPS director of security, says it's important for parents to follow visiting procedures and to remember they can report information anonymously by text or online. "They (parents) are part of our safety plan," Ingram says.

Many schools use direct phone messaging systems to inform parents of standard announcements as well as critical information. CHCC Schools, DPS and WCPSS use email notification systems for alerts and closings. School systems often post to websites and social media as well.

"Talk with children about processes and procedures. Sign up for notification systems and make sure that the information is kept up to date and accurate," WCPSS's Smith says. "Our contacts are only as good as the information that parents provide."

Representatives of DPS and CHCC Schools echo that sentiment, saying it is integral to school safety for students to report dangerous situations. See "What Parents Should Say About School Safety" on page XX for more tips.

Carol McGarrahan is a Triangle area freelance writer and editor.

What Every Parent Should Say to Kids About School Safety

- Explain the facts about school safety and the steps schools are taking.

- Explain the odds. The chances of being killed in schools are less than one in a million.

- Explain that everyone has a responsibility for making schools safe — even children.

- Explain that violence is not an acceptable solution.

- Ask questions about how your child feels about her school's safety. Are there places at school she avoids because she feels unsafe? Actively listen to her answers and follow up with the school to find out what is being done to solve the problem.

Visit ncdps.gov and search for N.C. Center for Safer Schools for a more detailed list of suggestions.

Tap into School Safety: Helpful Resources

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools – CHCC Schools uses Blackboard Connect to make automated telephone calls and send emails providing community event reminders, important parent and staff messages, attendance notifications, and emergency communications. Parents automatically subscribe to Blackboard Connect when they give contact information to their child's school.

Durham Public School System – DPS offers a ConnectEd Notification System (a phone communication service), a parent hotline at 919-560-9129 and DPS Cable Channel 4 to communicate information. The school system also uses local radio and television station broadcasts to notify parents of important information and offers a weather/closing email alert service at dpsnc.net/forms/weather-closing-alert-email-sign-up.

Wake County Public School System – WCPSS offers an email notification service parents can sign up for at www.wcpss.net/parents/stay-informed.html.

WCPSS administration and individual schools have automated calling systems using contact numbers provided to schools. Messages pertain to school absences, emergencies and other announcements.

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction – dpi.state.nc.us

North Carolina Center for Safer Schools – ncdps.gov

The Lowdown on Lockdown

If there is a potential threat of an unsafe situation to your child's school, the school may go on "lockdown" to protect students, staff and visitors. For example, here is how the code system for Wake County Public Schools works:

- Code Red: Indicates an immediate threat and requires students to be moved into safe areas. All interior and exterior doors are locked.

- Code Yellow: If there is a nearby community threat, such as a bank robbery or police chase in the neighborhood, all outdoor activities stop and students move into the building. Outer doors are locked and movement between buildings is prohibited, but all other activities continue as normal.

- Code Green: Indicates that the incident has passed and the lockdown has ended.

There is currently no set standard for how lockdown procedures should be carried out.

"This will be something the Department of Public Safety through our Emergency Management Division and the Center for Safer Schools will be trying to establish," says William Lassiter, deputy director for the N.C. Center for Safer Schools. "The national system recommended by the Department of Homeland Security is moving away from codes and plans to use plain English instead."

So if a school must go into lockdown mode, Lassiter says, school officials should simply announce this and provide instructions to staff, students and parents. He advises parents to ask for a copy of their child's school's procedures, since these can vary from district to district.

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Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Race Director
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
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Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

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The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
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Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
Website »

More information

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
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Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

Art Walk featuring local galleries and artist studios in historic downtown Hillsborough on the Last Friday of every month (no Art Walk in December).

Cost: FREE

Where:
Downtown Hillsborough (multiple locations)
102 N. Churton St.
Hillsborough, NC  27278
View map »


Sponsor: Hillsborough Arts Council
Telephone: 919-643-2500
Contact Name: Torey Mishoe
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Engage Art Contest is a juried competition for original Visual Art, Music Video, Film and Performing Arts. The topic is the Spiritual Battle described in Ephesians 6:10-20 and related...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online
PO Box 78951
Charlotte, NC  28271
View map »


Sponsor: Engage Art Contest
Telephone: 980-999-1447
Contact Name: Ranika Chaney
Website »

More information

Forget tourist-filled museums, make your own memories with a photo scavenger hunt tour in Raleigh! On a Let’s Roam scavenger hunt, you and your team will work together to wander throughout...

Cost: $11

Where:
500 S Salisbury St
raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Website »

More information

Farmers markets are essential to the livelihood of farmers and food producers and are exempt from the Governor's Stay at Home Order (page 6). Farmers markets offer an efficient way for residents to...

Cost: free

Where:
Holly Springs Cultural Center
300 W. Ballentine St.
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Farmers Market Coordinator
Telephone: 919-567-4010
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Parents, bring your child to class with you. Children 10 years...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

PARENTS JOIN OUR DHHS APPROVEDCPR/AED & First Aid Certification ClassesFoster parents are required to be CPR & First Aid certified. Must register in advance. Space is limited. Parents, bring your...

Cost: 50-80

Where:
Holly Springs, NC
1001 Silverstone Way
Holly Springs, NC  27540
View map »


Sponsor: Save A Life Now Training Center LLC
Telephone: 919-215-6942
Contact Name: Valentina Cordoba
Website »

More information

Amongst the ancient oak trees is the heart of Raleigh. We'll help you see the forest for the trees and all its magic splendor. Tourist, local, or new to town, this is a lively small group activity...

Cost: $11

Where:
Downtown
500 S Salisbury St
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: Let's Roam
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: Kelly
Website »

More information

Kindermusik is a research-based early childhood curriculum that includes 45-minute classroom lessons with materials and resources that encourages parental involvement . Research has linked...

Cost: $70/month

Where:
Hope Community Building
2080 E Williams St
Hope Community Building, Fuquay Varina Room
Apex/Holly Springs, NC  27539
View map »


Telephone: 191-990-25432
Contact Name: Leigh Hamm
Website »

More information

Live online classes for kids - FREE! Kids and families can join our online classes from home while school is out. Our special guests teach kids about art, medicine, music, cooking, science and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Online at your Home
265 Cambridge Ave #60923
Palo Alto, NC  94306
View map »


Sponsor: ActivityHero
Telephone: 800-437-6125
Contact Name: Mabelle
Website »

More information

Sign up for a Raleigh scavenger hunt and put on your best Nick Cage impression as you seek out the national treasures hidden in Raleigh. Via an app, be guided through the cultural, historical,...

Cost: See website for fees

Where:
Downtown Raleigh
500 S. Salisbury St.
Raleigh, NC  27601
View map »


Sponsor: LetsRoam!
Telephone: 833-202-7626
Contact Name: LetsRoam!
Website »

More information

Join one of our talented Mid-South Fencers’ Club coaches for a one hour virtual lesson to the fast paced and exciting sport of Olympic Fencing! This will be a FREE ONLINE class. All you need is...

Cost: free

Where:
Mid-South Fencers' Club ONLINE
125 N. Gregson St.
DURHAM, NC  27701
View map »


Sponsor: Mid-South Fencers' Club
Telephone: 919-286-3100
Contact Name: Jeff Kallio
Website »

More information

It's time to play... TAKEOUT BINGO!!!  Take a screenshot or download the game board. Mark off the locations you visit. Share your progress on Facebook and Instagram using #CRTakeoutBingo. Send...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Crossroads Plaza
Crossroad Blvd
Suite 215
Cary, NC  27518
View map »


Sponsor: Crossroads Plaza/ Kimco Realty
Telephone: 864-979-2291
Contact Name: Katie Earnhardt
Website »

More information

We invite all Triangle youth between the ages of 8 thru 17 with a sincere interest in the Performance Art of Magic to join Magic Youth Raleigh! This youth program teaches magic history and theory,...

Cost: $35 per Student

Where:
New Horizons Fellowship
820 E. Williams St.
Apex, NC  27502
View map »


Sponsor: The International Brotherhood of Magicians
Contact Name: Roger Way
Website »

More information

The Beaver Queen Pageant is the Triangle’s own special mix of folly, pageantry, and humor. Contestants take on beaver personalities and compete for the title of Beaver Queen with their fashion,...

Cost: free

Where:
Online
, NC


Sponsor: Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association
Telephone: 919-698-9729
Contact Name: Rachel Cohn
Website »

More information

River Jam at the U.S. National Whitewater Center brings together live musical performances throughout the year to a one-of-a-kind outdoor venue, right in the middle of the world’s largest...

Cost: $6

Where:
USNWC
5000 Whitewater Center Pkwy
Charlotte, NC  28214
View map »


Sponsor: USNWC
Telephone: 704-391-3900
Contact Name: Jenny Hill
Website »

More information

Get your summer vibes going at the 1st Annual Hubb’s Beach Blast at Hubb’s Farm in Clinton, NC.  Hubb’s Beach Blast will feature two of beach music industry’s top groups, Jim Quick and...

Cost: 20-50

Where:
Hubb's Farm
10276 US HWY 421 N
Clinton, NC  28328
View map »


Sponsor: Hubb's Farm
Telephone: 910-564-6709
Contact Name: Tammy Peterson
Website »

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