The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s (DPI) Center for Safer Schools received a grant of nearly $1 million last fall from the U.S. Justice Department’s STOP School Violence Program.
The grant program, over three years, is meant to address gun violence and school security by providing improved training, more building security, better policies and partnerships. Paul Holden, director of student services for Watauga County Schools, said funding should be directed to mental-health support along with providing school systems with more counselors, nurses and social workers.
Holden believes there is a link between gun violence in schools and students who feel anxiety more often.
“We’ve had a couple circumstances where something that 10 years ago would have been innocuous – an accidental fire alarm – when that happens, the kids, particularly our high school kids, you can visually see it appears to be a little more anxiety-inducing,” Holden told the Watauga Democrat. “I attribute that to the school shootings.”
Watauga County Schools has added security personnel, medical personnel and technology for better safety in the last few years. There have been 14 incidents of gun violence in K-12 schools in North Carolina since 2010, according to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security.
Data collection and implementing policies from the data are aspects of the grant and the STOP School Violence Program. Surveys of students, staff and parents are part of the data.
Tracking “reportable offenses” to the state DPI is part of the data as well. Reportable offenses include homicide, assault, assault involving use of a weapon, rape, sexual offense, sexual assault, kidnapping, robbery with a dangerous weapon, taking indecent liberties with a minor, assault on school personnel, bomb threat, burning a school building, possession of alcohol, possession of a controlled substance, possession of a firearm or explosive, and possession of a weapon.