GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) — While additional security cameras and enhanced doors are vital to keeping students safe while on campus, state leaders stress mental health guidance should now be at the top of the list to make students safer while they attend school.
On Monday, state leaders, and law enforcement, held a School Safety Summit on the campus of UNCG to detail what a school safety committee found after it studied North Carolina K-12 schools over three years.
The committee was formed in the wake of the 2018 shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students were killed and another 17 were injured.
A committee on school safety was initiated by the North Carolina General Assembly, with a Crime Commission Special Committee on School Shootings.
The two looked at what campuses are currently doing across the state and assessed what was and was not working, what students were enduring and which areas needed to be improved upon.
One of the biggest focal points of the study found that districts could do more to address a child’s mental health while on campus.
A study of 3,000 students found that nearly 19 percent had contemplated suicide, while nearly 10 percent admitted to having tried to take their own lives.
Those numbers, while concerning, were also taken before the pandemic. Experts fear the numbers will become worst as COVID-19 cases increase among younger individuals.
The Action Plan suggests that districts hire more trained nurses and counselors who can identify when a student is struggling with mental health.
If a student needs help, the counselors will be able to help them or guide them to someone who can.
The plan also suggests that teachers and school resource officers are trained to identify signs of mental health as well.
The committee found that extra emphasis should be put on keeping students inside the classroom and outside the court system.
When a student engages in an offense at school (ex. a fight) that student shouldn’t be directly sent to court.
The state’s action plan outlined that a student is more likely to end up back in a court system as a suspect, or a victim, if they find themselves in that situation as a child.
The plan recommends that students should first be disciplined in teen court, or within the school, to avoid additional damage, and reduce the number of days they miss school.
Coupled with this, the State Action Plan pushes that more attention is placed on identifying A.C.T. in students.
A.C.T stands for Adverse Childhood Experience ( a child has been abused at home, which could have led to them acting out in class), or Adverse Community Environment (a child has been exposed to an absent guardian which led to them acting out in class).
By school leaders, and SROs, identifying those traumas in students, it will lead to them getting help earlier.
To learn more about the state’s action plan, click here.