Local law enforcement and CHCCS discuss action after school shooting in Uvalde

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Sally Johnson, a first-grade teacher at McDougle Elementary School, has already had to tell her fourth-grade students about the school’s lockdown drills, gun violence and the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where nearly two dozen students and teachers were shot. and dead.

In 2022, 83 people were injured or killed in 27 different school shootings.

One person has been injured and one person killed in North Carolina school shootings since the start of the school year.

According to a 2019 Associated Press-NORC poll, 67% of American adults said they felt schools were less safe than 20 years ago, 19% said they felt about as safe and only 13% said they felt safer.

While Johnson said McDougle Elementary generally feels safe, her students are concerned about both the usefulness of active shooter drills and their own safety.

“When we talked about the exercises, my children were concerned about ‘what if?’ situations,” Johnson said. “They brought up a pretty valid point: ‘Wouldn’t the shooter know where we are if we practice all the time? “”

Johnson said that while she is often a primary mental health resource for her students, she has received no formal training from her school on supporting children with gun violence issues.

She added that school support staff, including counselors, have struggled to meet the needs of students this school year.

“Our support staff has been pretty spread out this year,” Johnson said. “When teachers don’t have the proper training or resources, they’re the ones we turn to after that, so we’re all carrying a lot of weight right now.”

Andy Jenks, communications director for the town of Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, said school system officials and local law enforcement met the afternoon of the Uvalde shooting to discuss solutions. short-term and long-term issues of school safety.

The first short-term step, Jenks said, was to increase police presence in elementary schools in the district.

He said while CHCCS middle and high schools have school resource officers on their campuses daily, elementary schools are often left unprotected by law enforcement.

Chapel Hill Community Safety Public Information Officer Alex Carrasquillo said that following the events in Uvalde, security has been increased at schools in the district, particularly elementary schools without a security guard. school resources.

“Middle and high school resource officers check their neighboring elementary schools during the day,” he said. “A reserve SRO also helps verify elementary schools. Our officers on patrol also check elementary schools as their call volume allows.

He said Chapel Hill High School, East Chapel Hill High School, Guy B. Phillips Middle School, Smith Middle School and Culbreth Middle School have ORS.

Jenks said longer-term solutions are still being discussed, but an increased police presence in both schools and surrounding communities is being implemented for at least the final days of the 2021 school year- 2022.

“It’s maddening to us that we continue to have these conversations, but it’s also important that we have these conversations to make schools as safe as possible for staff, for our students and for the community,” he said. he declares.

Jenks added that the mental, social and emotional side of safety is just as important as physical safety. He said the goal is to have a mental health support system in every school that can meet the social and emotional needs of students and staff.

In February, CHCCS used an $868,000 grant from the Orange County Board of Commissioners to fund ten new support staff positions focused on mental health and social and emotional learning.

“Ultimately, we want to make sure every student and every staff member feels like there’s a trusted adult in the building they can talk to about whatever is on their mind,” Jenks said. “As a result of what happened in Texas, there are a lot of people in our buildings who are, unfortunately, equipped to be able to do that.”

Jenks said CHCCS’ top priority is the safety of its schools and students, and that the school system will work tirelessly to keep violence away from its 20 school campuses.

“No one should have to send their children to school or go to work wondering if tragedy will befall them,” he said.

@ethanehorton1 @sarahchxi

@DTHCityState | [email protected]

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