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NC educators meet to address school violence, other issues

Monday marks the return of in-person teaching at Wake County Public Schools. Students arrive at Davis Drive Elementary to temperature checks and health screenings in the carpool line.
Kate Medley
for WUNC

Educators from across North Carolina are gathering for four days of training on how to support young children and adolescents facing an outbreak of violence and other problems.

The RISE Conference in Greensboro is sponsored by the Center for Safer Schools, part of the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.

The conference's title acronym stands for resiliency, information, support and empowerment. Sessions will deal with bullying, suicide, opioids and other substance use among other challenges children now face. The back-to-school training also will address trauma and victimization among children and adolescents, and how all of these things impact school climate and school safety.

“Everything about it relates to school safety,” said Karen Fairley, the center's executive director.

Presenters will include the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, a manager of the Sandy Hook Promise National Crisis Center, and speakers addressing youth suicide prevention, substance abuse, human trafficking and teen dating violence. Also scheduled is a speaker from the Department of Homeland Security, to discuss active shooter response.

Another presentation will come from Gale Wilkins, president of Project Arrow, a life coaching and leadership program for middle and high school students that has been implemented in five schools and a community program in Granville County.

“They're looking for innovation to keep the kids safe and to be able to do things. Safety is paramount," Wilkins said. “So, they're looking for some things outside of the box. We believe that life coaching is.”

In 2021, DPI issued a statewide challenge to develop a program that would combat school violence. Wilkins created the program and was awarded a grant to implement it.

Wilkins, a former state youth advocacy advisor, said her talk on Tuesday will focus on peer-to-peer mentoring as well as life coaching.

“What we're giving them is an additional tool to learn how to self-coach and to talk to themselves, ask themselves powerful questions, to be aware of their emotions and what to do with those emotions,” she said. “We're giving them tools on how to create habits and skills sets to regulate their own emotions.”

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