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Hundreds of North Carolina school districts have not uploaded school safety plans

The plans should document how individual schools will prevent, mitigate and respond to threats in coordination with local law enforcement.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Hundreds of schools in North Carolina have not uploaded their approved school safety plan to an online portal, which is required by state law. 

The plan, which is called a School Risk Management Plan, documents how individual schools will prevent, mitigate and respond to threats such as shootings, fires, tornadoes and hazardous spills in coordination with local law enforcement, first responders and emergency managers.

In a briefing to lawmakers, the state’s top school safety experts said nearly one-third of schools have not submitted school safety plans. 

"The safety plan is just that: What happens in an incident in your school? How, what are everybody's roles? What is everybody's function?" Karen Wright Fairley, the executive director of the Center for Safe Schools, explained.

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State law requires all districts to draft, submit and have a plan accessible online. Law enforcement, some state divisions and administrators have access to the plans to review and update. 

"We don't approve it," Fairley clarified. "What we do is help them to make sure they get in now we will provide technical assistance if they need it."

Once the plans are submitted, Fairley said districts work with officials to assess if the plan is suitable. 

Watauga, Catawba, Stanly, Cleveland and Burke counties' schools have submitted or had their most recent safety plans approved in the online system. 

Union County said it submitted its plan and is waiting on approval. 

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is in the process of completing its plan to submit for approval this summer.

Mooresville Graded School District and Cabarrus County Schools said it’s in the draft stage of changing its plan. 

Something as simple as a change in the school's principal could trigger a draft stage. 

"Anytime that you make an amendment to it, it goes into draft mode," Fairley said. 

Fairley told lawmakers, that as of May 31, out of 2,363 plans, 1,099 were in a draft category. 

There were 110 in the "locked" category, 378 in the "submitted" category and 776 in the "not started" category. 

Fairley said a "locked" school plan means it's uploaded to the online system and has been approved. 

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"Submitted" means a district is waiting on approval locally. 

Fairley said the status of "not started" does not mean no plan exists in the district. 

"It is required that they put it in the system, and they need to, but I don't want parents or anybody to think just because I said that it's not stated that they don't have a plan," Fairley said. 

Fairley believes the mass shooting in Texas will prompt districts to act faster on submitting their plans online. 

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"I need the media to not wait until a tragedy happens to ask about school safety," Fairley said. "I think that they need to periodically ask for an update and ask what we're doing."

The safety plans are not only vital for emergencies, but they also allow lawmakers to allocate funding for school safety. The safety plans list the number of School Resource Officers and safety measures currently in schools.

"Whether it be human assets, like SROs, or whether it be technology or hardening devices, such as door locks and that type of thing. I haven't talked to one of my colleagues that hasn't expressed concern about school safety up here," Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, Chair of the N.C. House Committee on K-12 Education, said. 

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There are no bills going through the legislature's short session on funding for school safety. There is some hope, however, the long session in January will bring about change. 

"I have colleagues to bring forth legislation that will provide funding additional funding and additional resources throughout the state for school safety," Sen. Joyce Waddell, (D) Mecklenburg, a member of the Senate Education and Higher Education Committee, said. 

Some lawmakers want to focus on mental health resources while others want more visible things like body scanners. 

No one currently has a clear plan or direction on how much or where to spend money on school safety. 

Find out more about the School Risk Management Plans online.

Contact Shamarria Morrison at smorrison@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram. 

WCNC Charlotte is committed to reporting on the issues facing the communities we serve. We tell the stories of people working to solve persistent social problems. We examine how problems can be solved or addressed to improve the quality of life and make a positive difference. WCNC Charlotte is seeking solutions for you. Send your tips or questions to newstips@wcnc.com.

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