All stakeholders invested in making our schools safer for our children need to continue to foster strong working relationships with each other and maintain an open dialog in which all aspects from preventative measures to rapid response are actively addressed. The North Carolina Justice Academy and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety have co-developed a symposium to increase our collective efforts in effectively addressing these concerns.
On the prevention side, much can be done to improve school climate and address the needs of students. Facility risk assignments, effectively addressing bullying along with identifying and responding to mental health needs are all proactive approaches to preventing violence in schools. Schools can create teams that focus on creating trauma sensitive schools so students can learn better in a safer environment. Stakeholders will spend the morning discussing how to respond to bullying and address mental health needs as they first emerge.
Although such events are rare, schools and local law enforcement must also plan for the most challenging scenario – an active shooter on campus. As the day progresses, the focus will shift from prevention to a unified rapid response to an active shooter. These sessions will focus on increasing collaboration and role clarity among stakeholders. Increasing lines of communication along with holistic preparedness among all those that would be involved in an unfolding crisis will improve outcomes in the face of a potential tragedy.
One of the primary goals of the symposium is to provide an overview of the roles of school personnel, mental health providers, students, law enforcement and other emergency response providers in order to reduce violence in our schools. This overview along with discussing the expectations of those involved will serve to strengthen and maximize a uniformed streamlined approach thereby reducing and minimizing injuries in the event of an active threat. In summation, a dialogue will be fostered among all stakeholders to facilitate and enhance preparedness through a “whole community” approach as recommended by the US Department of Homeland Security addressing school violence.