GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — School safety was a topic discussed among Guilford County Schools leaders, community members and parents Monday night.
Superintendent Dr. Whitney Oakley hosted a “better-together” listening campaign at Dudley High School. Many parents in attendance said safety was top of mind. They hear about weapons on campus, bullying and fighting. They want to work together with district leaders to come up with a way to support students and prevent situations like this from happening.
“This is bigger than any one incident on any given day at a school,” said Pamela Palmer, who has a student at Dudley High School. “We really need to be making sure that we have protocol in place and ways that we can respond to, try to keep everyone safe as best we can.”
Palmer was one of more than 50 parents and community members who showed up to Dudley High School Monday evening and listened as Dr. Oakley shared what she’s learned through meeting with parents and students throughout this school year.
“Keeping students and staff safe begins with meaningful relationships,” Oakley said. “There’s not a scanner or piece of equipment that would have or could have prevented any of the tragedies that have happened in our country related to school violence. It doesn’t mean we don’t need to continue to investigate what is out there.”
People had the chance to ask questions and get their concerns addressed. An issue one parent brought up was access to schools.
“I have noticed, and I have seen firsthand at Eastern Guilford High School that there are doors propped open on the backside of the building,” said Clay Gooch, who has multiple kids in the district.
Gooch heard about a gun, which a district spokesperson confirmed made it into Dudley High School through an unauthorized door last week. The person never passed through the touch-less scanners.
At Monday night’s meeting, the executive director of emergency management for the school system explained how the student with a gun made it inside.
“There was a pencil put into the door,” Mike Richey said. “This gun never made it to a classroom because they were checking these doors and checking these hallways.”
To stop something like this from happening again, there’s a new camera system at Dudley High School, which was installed in the past three weeks to monitor the doors.
“They’ll tell us when the door opens, and we’ll have an alert going to our administrative staff saying this door opened, and it’s a time where it shouldn’t have,” Richey said.
Parents were happy to hear about the technology.
“I was very glad to hear about the cameras,” said Dr. Bianca White Jeffries, a GCS parent. “I’m also glad to hear about the safety plan that was implemented where teachers are rotated. Because like I said, our students are concerned as well as the community and parents.”
Parents know solutions won’t happen overnight, but they’re glad the conversations are happening.
“It’s just a matter of making sure that our students are safe and can learn,” Jeffries said. “As long as they are implementing a plan and there’s going to be more done, I’m totally OK with that. But we need to see a little bit more action.”
On May 2, Dr. Oakley and her team will launch the district’s new strategic direction. The plan is based on the feedback they’ve gathered at the more than 200 community meetings this school year.