WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Officers and deputies across Forsyth County will now be offered free lunch at all Winston-Salem/Forsyth County elementary schools, in exchange for spending time with the students and keeping them safe.
“It’s been really an intense period since Feb. 14,” said Dr. Beverly Emory, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools superintendent, referring to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
Emory added that since the shooting, there have been an unprecedented number of students and parents making administrators and school resource officers aware of possible concerns.
“I can’t imagine what kind of time and effort and energy just from my observer point of view, with the number of reports we’ve had from the slightest thing that somebody tells somebody in a bus lot getting on a bus to social media,” she said, of those tasked with keeping students safe in schools.
Thanks to an anonymous donor, students at the elementary school level – where there are currently no full-time school resource officers – will have an added layer of protection.
As part of the ongoing effort to improve safety, the school system is offering free lunch to on-duty law enforcement officers and deputies who are serving within their jurisdictions, in the hope of increasing their presence at random times on the campuses.
“We value the partnership of these trained folks who know more than we do about our own vulnerability,” Emory said.
It also continues the department’s endeavor to build trust with the communities they serve.
“We want them to be able to trust us and come to us with issues and concerns,” Winston-Salem police Chief Catrina Thompson said.
The initiative was rolled out on Wednesday, with Winston-Salem police eating lunch at Diggs-Latham Elementary School, Kernersville police at Kernersville Elementary School and Forsyth County deputies at Walkertown Elementary School.
“Oh, don’t be afraid Alyson,” Thompson said to one of the students. “I’m here to help you and protect you, OK? My daughter’s name is Alyson.”
“Our best security system really is kids talking to us,” Emory said.
The free lunches will be offered to law enforcement for at least the remainder of the school year.
“The stronger relationships we have, the more they’re going to talk to us, the more they’re going to tell us,” Emory added.
The school system is continuing to explore other options to improve security at all their schools. During a school board retreat last Saturday, Emory tells FOX8 they discussed mental health and reallocating resources to meet the needs of students who are struggling. She added they have also talked about improving security systems, with options such as badges and apps students can use to buzz in and out of school buildings.