GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — North Carolina’s top school safety experts gathered in Gaston County Monday to discuss solutions to the rise in school violence.
The 2023 RISE Back to School Safety Summit was organized by the North Carolina Center for Safer Schools, a department under the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
The goal of the summit was to bring together school leaders, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and other stakeholders to collaborate on ways to improve school safety.
The summit included local school district leaders and was attended by the chairpersons of the NC Senate and House Education committees, as well as State Superintendent Catherine Truitt.
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Truit told the room the state is seeing a rise in fake threats being called for schools.
Charlotte area schools have experienced their own number of fake hoaxes and swatting calls throughout the last school year.
“Part of hoaxing and the problems as it relates to hoaxing is just the panic, that people panic they share, and then it gets out of hand, and you really don’t realize where the origin of the information came from,” Karen Fairley, Center for Safer Schools Executive Director, said.
Truitt discussed the need for more funding for mental health services.
“When a teacher notices that there is some sort of mental health issue happening with the student, then the teacher needs to be able to refer that student to a mental health clinician, or an expert,” Truitt said.
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School districts in the Charlotte area have been fighting for new funding from the North Carolina General Assembly to fund mental health services. Most recently, a bipartisan bill was introduced in the North Carolina Senate that would add more school psychologists across the state. It didn’t make it out of committee in the Senate.
The National Association of School Psychologists shows North Carolina has one of the nation’s worst student-to-psychologist ratios, in addition to having one of the lowest average salaries.
Truitt said DPI has used money from federal grants to help get more resources into schools.
“We just received $17 million this past year from the federal government to start working on our pipeline challenges to have mental health school clinicians in our schools,” Truitt said.
Both Fairley and Truitt said it’s their priority to get legislators to increase funding for school safety and mental health services. They maintained that these investments are essential to keeping students safe.
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