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CMS superintendent reassures parents, students in light of Michigan school shooting

"Addressing this crisis is a top priority," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston said in a letter to parents on Friday.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After four students were killed and seven more people were injured in an Oxford High School shooting Tuesday in Oakland County, Michigan, the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools sent a letter to parents and students, alerting them to the precautions the North Carolina school district is taking to prevent violence in North Carolina.

"We are facing a crisis of student aggression and violence without our community and our schools," Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Superintendent Earnest Winston said in a letter to parents on Friday. "Guns do not belong in schools or in the hands of children."

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Beyond the violence in Michigan, CMS has run into its own recent issue with weapons and violence in its schools. On Friday, Harding University High School in west Charlotte was placed on lockdown after an incident involving pepper spray. 

This is the second time this week that Harding was placed on lockdown. On Tuesday, a gun was found after a fight on campus, and CMS increased security at the school on Wednesday.

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Julius Chambers High School was put on lockdown this week after a fight between multiple students resulted in police being called. 

Garinger High School in east Charlotte was on lockdown Thursday after a gun was found in a student's possession. So far this school year, CMS has found 18 guns on campuses across the district. 

And all of that was just this week.

Credit: CMS
CMS superintendent letter to parents after string of violent incidents at schools

Winston told parents the district is taking action to protect students and staff, including safety and support protocols.

"All students and staff are trained in lockdown procedures to secure buildings during a crisis," Winston wrote. "We train school-based staff for active shooter scenarios, conduct random safety screenings and canine searches, provide staff for the social and emotional needs of our students and have trained school resource officers on our middle and high school campuses to respond to issues."

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He did admit the school district needs to continue to do more, however.

Winston pointed to a workgroup he directed that is working to find short-term and long-term solutions to the growing violence in schools issue. One of those solutions is to provide students with clear backpacks, which are due to arrive in February. Another tool is creating a system where students can report possible threats anonymously and doubling the number of random safety screenings at school.

"We have contacted screening equipment manufacturers regarding metal detectors and wands," Winston added. "We have engaged city and county partners to share strategies like the Alternative to Violence program to reach into the community. There is more work to do."

Winston recently met with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Chief Johnny Jennings, along with other city and county leaders like the district attorney and the sheriff to figure out other possible solutions.

"We are all concerned for the safety of our students and staff," Winston wrote. "Addressing this crisis is a top priority, and we will communicate more actions as our team takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to new school safety measures and preventing further violence."

He encouraged parents to propose their own solutions via email "because all ideas are needed to make a difference."

Winston has served as CMS Superintendent since August 2019. 

Corine Mack, the president of the Charlotte chapter of the NAACP, said youth violence at CMS schools has gotten out of hand, and she wants parents to do more.

“Every time I see it, I'm deeply disturbed, I'm sad, and I'm frustrated,” she said. “I don’t see parents outraged in the way I feel like they should be outraged."

Mack also said the district needs to take a role in addressing the trauma youth are facing, saying requiring clear backpacks and installing metal detectors only goes so far.

School board chair Elyse Dashew agrees the district needs to do more, while also providing more solutions to the ongoing problem.

"Really pressing on the superintendent as we're being pressed by constituents to show us what you're doing," said Dashew, "so I really understand that anxiety and that urgency."

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