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Promising school safety bill introduced

From crack child advocate Rob Thompson at the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children:

House members introduce bipartisan school safety bill
Bill includes needed funding for mental health support staff

RALEIGH – Representatives Glazier (D), Faircloth (R), Holloway (R) and Lucas (D) introduced legislation (H452) Wednesday aimed at making North Carolina schools safer and preventing tragedies like Newtown. Specifically, the bill provides funding for local school districts to add School Resource Officers (SROs) and support staff, including school counselors, social workers and psychologists. The bill also requires school districts to take specific steps to respond effectively to a future crisis.

“This legislation provides what resource-starved school districts need more than anything – money for staff,” stated Rob Thompson, Executive Director of the Covenant with North Carolina’s Children. “We’re particularly pleased to see legislators take concrete steps to address the mental health issues that are at the root of school violence.”

The bill allocates $5 million in one-to-one matching grants for LEAs to hire additional school counselors, social workers and psychologists. The bill also allocates $10 million to provide LEAs with two-to-one matching grants to hire SROs in elementary and middle schools. In addition to funding for support staff and SROs, H452 includes a number of other provisions designed to improve campus security, including funds for panic alarms and a requirement for school districts to establish an anonymous tip line.

While the Covenant’s Thompson was generally supportive of the bill, he noted one specific area for improvement: We’d like to see a requirement for School Resource Officers to receive standardized, job-specific training that includes information on child and adolescent development and working with children with disabilities. This is especially important if we’re going to start utilizing SROs in elementary schools. ”

Currently, SROs in many counties, including Wake, don’t receive job-specific training, which makes it difficult to work effectively in a school-based environment. This recommendation is part of a broader set of recommendations from the Covenant, which can be found here.

“We believe this bill is a great start to a serious and necessary conversation. I commend the bill sponsors for their commitment to the safety of our state’s children,” said Thompson.

Rob might have added that comprehensive anti-gun violence laws would be good too, but at least this may be a start.

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