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Legislators Want More Police And Improved Mental Health Services For Safer Schools

NC Legislature
Colin Campbell
Leslie Maynor Locklear, left, talks about losing her two sons to opioid overdoses. She joined Republican senators at a news conference on a bill with stricter criminal penalties for opioid dealers.

When legislators return to Raleigh next week for the start of the spring session, they will have a slew of ideas to consider to improve student safety in North Carolina schools. The House Select Committee on School Safety on Thursday approved a handful of recommendations to the General Assembly, and also drafted a number of possible bills.

Proposals related to mental health included funding peer-to-peer student counseling programs, threat assessment teams and a statewide anonymous tip line app for students to report issues. Another possible bill would make it easier for school psychologists trained in other states to be licensed and hired in North Carolina.

Several proposals related to physical safety would adopt training standards for police officers in schools, require schools to report annually on their use of officers, and appropriate an additional $1.8 million to hire more of them.

This has been a deliberative process, with bipartisan input... -Rep. Josh Dobson

The recommendations represented nearly two months of work from the House Select Committee on School Safety. Members on Thursday also discussed a measure to increase the penalty for communicating a threat against a school to a felony, but that was not included in the committee's final report after several representatives voiced concerns that it could over-criminalize students who made empty threats. 

Republican Representative Josh Dobson applauded the committee's work.

"This has been a deliberative process, with bipartisan input ... to come up with concrete recommendations that we can all rally around, to keep our kids safer. And that's what we've done," Dobson said. "I'm quite proud of it."

Don't fool yourselves, this bill is nowhere near sufficient. -Rep. Darren Jackson

House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson said the proposed measures are valuable, but don't do enough to prevent school shootings.

"Don't fool yourselves, this bill is nowhere near sufficient. We have not done hardly anything to address this problem and this real danger in our school," Jackson said, complaining that Republican leaders of the committee had blocked discussion of certain ideas from Democrats.

Jackson said the committee wasn't calling for enough funding for school safety measures and had failed to discuss any proposals having anything to do with guns. Democrats had proposed a red flag law that would create a process for law enforcement to confiscate guns from individuals deemed a threat. 

Committee co-chair John Torbett called Jackson's comments "a failed attempt to politicize this," and went on to say that committee members had worked cohesively to develop a strong policy to move forward, with much work yet to be done in session.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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