Local school officials reflect on Michigan tragedy, share their efforts to keep classrooms safe

School Watch

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — With the recent tragedy happening at a high school in Oxford, Michigan, local school and police officials are taking the time to express their commitment to the safety of their students and staff.

These incidents do not discriminate on where they may happen next. That’s why those that spoke with WNCT want to express the importance of their efforts reaching beyond just the classroom.

“You’ve got to know that that whole community has to be just in a state of shock right now,” said U.S. President Joe Biden after learning of the school shooting.

Local officials want to make it known they have plans to keep Eastern North Carolina students safe.

“We are very vigilant. Our methods of patrol, Interacting with our campus to make sure lines of communication are open,” said Tyrone Turnage Jr., the Chief of Police at Pitt Community College.

Whether it’s a college campus or a local K-12 school system, officials agree the work goes beyond what’s seen in the classroom.

“The importance of what happens between the home and the school and that open communication that we have and that team effort to address student needs,” said Dr. Brendan Gartner, executive director of Human Resources and Student Services at Onslow County Schools.

“If they can’t feel safe or don’t feel safe at school, it’s going to be really hard to teach and to learn,” said Brent Anderson, chief communications officer for Onslow Co. Schools.

Anderson said teacher/student relationships can be very influential in a student’s well being.

“Our teachers know who their kids are, they know their students, they build those relationships with the kids, and when you know your kids, it makes it that much easier to know if something is not quite right,” said Anderson.

Dr. Brendan Gartner, the school systems Director of Human Resources and Student Services, says they’ve had to make some changes to meet these needs.

“We’ve increased the number of school counselors, drastically increased the number of social workers in our schools to assist and we have more nursing positions in order to assist and address these needs for our students,” said Gartner.

That includes bringing in outside counseling for students and allowing them to express themselves to someone they may not have to see everyday. The top thing that’s stressed is if you see something, say something.

“Don’t be silent. Whether it’s yourself or your friends, your colleagues, your coworkers, don’t be silent. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help, don’t be afraid to reach out to someone else to help someone you know,” said Gartner.

WNCT also heard from officials at Pitt County Schools, one of the largest systems in Eastern North Carolina. Representatives had this to say:

Pitt County schools takes the safety of our children very seriously, and attention to safety assessments, protocol analysis, and building a positive and optimum school environment for learning is top priority for our system and a continuous process. The increase in school violence is disheartening, and it is happening across the nation, not just in schools but in businesses, in families, in neighborhoods, and in public spaces. While we cannot solve the deeper societal issue, we continue to take various precautions and have a multi-faceted approach when it comes to resolving and preventing school conflict.

Pitt County Schools statement

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