Digging Deeper: Inside look at school safety and preventative measures

Local

Valentine’s Day marks one year since 17-year people were killed after 19-year-old Nicholas Cruz opened fire at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. 

According to the center for homeland defense and security, 2018 marked the worst year on record for gun violence in schools. 

Across the east, the rise of school violence is forcing schools to beef up security measures to protect students. 

Several schools are cracking down on students who make threats of violence in learning facilities. 

Students have been sentenced for their actions. 

School leaders say improving safety measures has been underway for the past 15 years. 

Nicholas Harvey is the assistant superintendent for Lenoir County Public Schools. 

“Our number one priority is to take care of children,” said Assistant Superintendent Harvey. “We want to send students home, the same way we get them each and every morning, safe, educated, loved and cared for.” 

Since the parkland shooting, Harvey says school leaders have worked daily to enhance technology. 

“Our buzz in, buzz out features on our doors, intercom systems on our doors and upgrades to our security camera systems,” said Harvey. 

In May of 2018, the Lenoir County school board approved more than $570,000 to install safety equipment. 

“Our county commissioners graced us with additional funding to enhance our security measures,” said Harvey “No longer do you have the grainy footage where you maybe could see someone move or you maybe could pick out someone’s shoes, it’s crystal clear.” 

Harvey is a father of a Kinston High School student and says the school system is going in the right direction through relationships. 

“We want to be there as total support and wrap our arms and love our students each and every day,” said Harvey. 

In Pitt County, several measures have been taken to maintain a safe and orderly learning environment for students and staff members in the district.  

Matt Johnson is the assistant superintendent of operations for Pitt County Schools. 

“A lot of measures have been put into place, not only the past year since Parkland but over the past 15-20 years,” said Johnson. 

In Pitt County, buzz-in systems and cameras are in place. But, the school system has additional safeguards. 

“We have visitor management systems that have been put into place, background checks can be done on persons coming into the school, doors remained locked,” said Johson. “We make sure our staff members have badges to enter our facilities.” 

Appropriated funds and grants have added 12 school resource officers, bringing the total to 26. 

Secure corridors are not in place at the front entrances of each school. 

Johnson says finding the line between preventative measures and providing a safe school environment can become blurred.

“We don’t want it to feel like a prison,” said Johnson. “We need to be community-based.” 

Johnson says building stronger bonds within the schools is necessary. 

“It’s not just, ‘I’m an officer, I’m here with a badge and I’m here to enforce the law,’ we try to train our officers to think ‘I’m here to make relationships, I’m here to build this relationship and build character’,” said Johnson “We are teaching our students that if they ‘See something? Say something’.”  

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