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School districts continue plans to make campuses safer during summer

North Carolina state lawmakers didn’t pass any significant legislation on the school safety front during their short session.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Following the shooting in Uvalde, bipartisan support was shown for passing school safety laws. However, North Carolina state lawmakers didn’t pass any significant legislation on that front during their short session. 

In the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting the NC House K-12 committee convened to hear a safety update on schools from state safety experts. 

It revealed hundreds of schools in North Carolina had not uploaded their approved school safety plan to an online portal, which is required by state law.

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Representative John Torbett, a Republican representing Gaston County,  chairs this committee.  

"I haven't talked to one of my colleagues that hasn't expressed a concern about school safety up here," Torbett said after the shooting. 

He encouraged districts to start uploading the critical documents immediately. The plans allow legislatures to gauge what resources schools need. 

"We will hopefully strengthen our funding opportunities to the LEA's (Law Enforcement Officers) out there that need the funding for additional school safety assets," Torbett said. "Whether it be human assets, like SROs, (school Resources Officers) or whether it be technology or hardening devices, such as door locks and that type of thing." 

State Senator Joyce Waddell, a Democrat representing Mecklenburg County and a member of the Senate Education Committee, also has plans for school safety. 

"As we go into our long session, which starts in January looking with other lawmakers have a colleague that bringeth forth legislation that will provide funding additional funding and additional resources throughout the state," Waddell said.  

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools district is working on updating data in its school safety plan. This is in addition to updating plans to keep guns off-campus.

"There are so many unsecured weapons out in the community, from a lot of well, meaning people," Elyse Dashew, the CMS Board Chair, said. "Like a lot of people bought guns during the pandemic, for whatever reason, a lot of new first-time gun owners, too, and they're not necessarily storing their weapons safely." 

Dashew said in the coming months a messaging campaign to address this issue will be revealed. 

"I'm working with the DA's office and all the municipal police departments, County Public Health to have like a messaging campaign," Dashew said. 

A WCNC Charlotte investigation revealed multiple guns found on CMS campuses in the 2021-22 school year were stolen. 

"We can all work together to raise awareness about that because this concrete thing that we can really do together, that will make a big difference," Dashew said. 

Dashew said district leaders must think long-term as COVID-19 dollars are used for mental health resources to prevent violence runs out. 

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"We may get used to doing some programs or having some additional staff that is going to vanish," Dashew said. "Unless we can show either the state or the county that these investments are worthwhile and please, you know, replace those funds when they disappear." 

For now, districts will work with the funds they currently have to keep students safe. 

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

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