Following months of planning after the school shooting massacre in Parkland, Florida, Republican leaders in the North Carolina General Assembly announced $35 million will be earmarked for new school safety measures.
Lawmakers are working through annual budget adjustments. The following school safety provisions are expected in a budget that the legislature will vote on next week:
Mental Health Support Staff
Schools would be able to apply for block grants from a pot of $10 million to hire nurses, counselors, psychologists, or social workers. The state falls short of national recommendations for staffing in all these positions. Many experts and legislators have referred to support staff such as school nurses and counselors as the "first line of defense" in identifying students with severe mental illnesses who might cause harm to themselves or others. It has been estimated that it would cost as much as $79 million to put a nurse in every school.
School Resource Officers
The state would put $12 million toward block grants for schools to apply to fund more police officers in schools. Provisions would also require training and continuing education for those officers. Another $3 million would go to improve school facilities and security with features like cameras and locked entrances.
Anonymous Tipline App
North Carolina students could soon have access to an anonymous tipline on their phones to report threats of violence. Lawmakers say the budget will include $5 million to put the app in the hands of students statewide.
Representative Donna White (R-Johnston) sponsored the bill to require use of the app, which has already been piloted in five counties. White said the app could directly prevent school violence, because one common factor in acts of school violence is that someone usually knew the act was being planned. Schools that piloted the app prevented instances of suicide attempts and gun threats.
"Just A Start"
Democrats say the Republican-led plan doesn't provide enough. Governor Roy Cooper proposed $130 million for school safety in his budget. Republicans say this planned budget adjustment is just a start. They say a plan to change Medicaid reimbursements for health services provided in schools could leverage up to $90 million dollars in the future for student health to support school safety.