North Carolina School Safety Summit touches on threat teams, bulletproof vests and pranks | WFAE 90.7


As North Carolina educators, police and state officials gathered in Gastonia for a back-to-school safety summit, the hall was lined with vendors hawking bulletproof backpacks, bulletproof windows, panic alarms and weapons scanners — a reminder that the threat of a school shooting is ever-lurking.

But officials, who kicked off the three-day session on Monday, said this was only part of the safety measures.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Katherine Truitt spoke Monday at the opening ceremony of the Back to School Safety Summit in Gastonia.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Katherine Truitt spoke Monday at the opening ceremony of the Back to School Safety Summit in Gastonia.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Katherine Truitt said she has seen “an increase in several school safety challenges” over the past year. At the top of the list is “pranks and swatting. If you work in the public schools, you know exactly what I’m talking about,” she said.

False threats, often spread through social media, may not lead to violence but they drain time and resources, she said.

“In addition to this trend, we are seeing school climate, bullying prevention and suicide prevention continue to be a focus for schools post-pandemic,” Truitt told the group.

In an interview, she said schools must balance emergency preparedness with the everyday school environment: “There’s hardening the schools, there’s the technology that’s needed, but there’s also the human component. Schools are people-centered, so we need to make sure all educators have as much training as possible to be aware of the mental health aspects.”

Truitt added that teachers aren’t responsible for providing mental health services, but they should be trained to recognize warning signs and refer students to clinicians or counselors.

The Rave Panic Button app is available to all schools in North Carolina.

The Rave Panic Button app is available to all schools in North Carolina.

As an example of the technology used to deal with emergencies, she said in February the state Rave Panic Alarmis a phone app provided free to all schools to notify police and other emergency responders of emergencies.

Gaston County Republican Rep. John Trubett, chairman of the House Education Committee, also spoke about the competing demands: “There are two schools of thought, and I jokingly call them gadgets and gadgets and mental health.”

Torbett said bipartisan approval this year invoice The bill, which would require schools to establish threat assessment teams by 2024, focuses on mental health but could also prevent violence in and around schools. The teams would include administrators, counselors, school resource officers and other personnel who might notice or respond to signs that a student is distressed. The goal is to get help to students before a crisis occurs.

“So if we do it right, communicate, observe, share and find solutions, we can change individuals who are thinking about harming themselves or others,” he said.

North Carolina Center for Safe SchoolsThe ministry, which is part of the Ministry of Public Education, is hosting the three-day summit, which runs until Wednesday. Only opening remarks were made available to reporters.





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