As the nation continues to reel from the school shooting massacre in Uvalde, TX, the Education K-12 Committee Chairs in the NC House of Representatives scheduled a meeting on Wednesday for lawmakers to be updated on efforts to keep students safe in North Carolina.
Dr. Karen Fairley, Executive Director for the Center for Safer Schools in the Department of Public Instruction, provided the comprehensive update for the committee. Topics included the center’s accomplishments since 2013, the ongoing school safety grant program, the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System (SARS), Threat Assessment Team training, mandatory school risk management plans, upcoming safety training opportunities, and more.
Some of the data shared by Fairley drew comments and concerns from Committee Co-Chair John Torbett (R-Gaston) and other members. Torbett said the 907 anonymous life safety tips received through SARS from Aug. 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022 highlights the need for focused and well-coordinated safety efforts to protect students statewide. Those tips included 254 planned school attacks, 185 potential suicides, 162 incidents of cutting or other acts of self-harm, 101 weapons, and 36 intents to harm someone else.
Rep. David Willis (R-Union) raised concerns about the 776 schools in the state that Fairley reported as having not yet started their state-mandated school risk management plans, as well as the handful of LEAs in the state that are not using SARS for anonymous reporting of potential threats that need intervention.
Chairman Torbett thanked Fairley and her team for their work with limited resources and said the committee may hold future discussions about NC’s school safety efforts and additional needs to enhance those efforts.