CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) – The NC Safer Schools Task Force is preparing for new initiatives to keep weapons and violence out of schools.
The task force is composed of students, teachers, parents, education leaders, law enforcement, and staff from the NC Department of Public Safety. The task force held its quarterly meeting on Friday.
Members discussed upcoming grant opportunities for schools. For example, applications for school safety grants will open in June and the deadline is July 1. This money can go toward school resource officer funding, safety equipment, students in crisis, and training to increase school safety.
In addition, members discussed the launch of the EKG2 program Educating Kids on Gang and Gun Violence Program, will launch during the 2022-23 school year with the help of school resource officers.
“It’s really making sure that kids truly understand what would happen and what are the detrimental things that can happen to you – not even if you use the firearm but let’s say you bring it to school,” Billy Lassiter, the Deputy Secretary of the Division of Juvenile Justice, said.
“What are the things that would happen to you in the criminal justice system, what would happen to your life, and what happens to your education.”
Research from NCDPS shows the number of juveniles with guns has more than doubled from 2019 to 2021.
For example, the percentage of juvenile firearm complaints increased from four percent in 2019 to 13 percent in 2021, Lassiter says less than five percent of the complaints in 2021, happened in schools.
“What is causing these young people to feel like they need to have a weapon in their community or at school,” Lassiter questioned.
Just this week, two guns were found at two different Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. CMS confirmed a student had a gun at Renaissance West STEAM Academy on Tuesday and a different student had a gun at Ranson Middle School on Thursday.
“There shouldn’t be guns in schools, [the students] should be there for education and going off to college and having extra curriculums and things going on,” said Ranson Middle School Parent Timothy Dukes. Dukes’ son Timothy Jr. is in the sixth grade at Ranson.
Gov. Roy Cooper is requesting more than $38 million in next year’s budget to support violence education programs, gun locks, school safety grants and community grants.
CMS installed body scanners in more than 20 high schools in April. There are not any body scanners in elementary or middle schools.
Dukes hopes the state budget passes with Cooper’s recommendations and that CMS takes advantage of the funding for more body scanners for younger grade levels.
“We’ve got to watch after our kids and we’ve gotta help the people at the schools, the teachers, and staff, and all of them, to keep them safe too as well,” Dukes said.
Lassiter is calling on schools to add more mental health support to understand why children are getting guns in the first place.
“That’s going to take more mental health professionals in our schools, counselors in our schools, psychologists, and social workers on our school campuses to get to those issues,” Lassiter said.
WBTV asked CMS if they were considering adding more body scanners for lower grade levels and we were told they would update us with future measures. The CMS purchase order does say they are considering 6 extra sites.
The next quarterly meeting for the Safer Schools Task Force is in mid-August.
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