Greg Christopher and Tony Cope school safety summit

TRAINING — Haywood County Sheriff Greg Christopher, left, and Captain Tony Cope traveled to UNC-Greensboro for a school safety summit with Gov. Roy Cooper.

In the wake of multiple recent mass shooting incidents across the country and less than four months since the tragic school shooting at UNC Charlotte, Gov. Roy Cooper and his public safety team convened state leaders in education, public safety, public health and criminal justice Monday in Greensboro to learn the latest information on initiatives aimed at protecting North Carolina schools from senseless acts of mass violence.

“This summit was a great opportunity to come together with other city, county and state leaders to discuss school safety as we go into a new school year, so we can learn from others and see how these lessons can be applied to make our current strategies and practices we have here in Haywood County even stronger,” Christopher said.

Gov. Cooper welcomed representatives from the judiciary, legislature, education and law enforcement communities to the half-day summit held in the UNC-G Auditorium. Attendees Monday afternoon received updates on school resource officer training; student resources for preventing school violence; the State Emergency Response Application (SERA); the State Bureau of Investigation’s new Behavioral Threat Analysis (BeTA) Unit; the Center for Safer Schools’ anonymous tip application; and proposed legislation affecting school safety. They learned more about a new tool developed by the judicial branch to help schools, law enforcement and courtrooms develop school justice partnerships, where local officials agree on how they will work together to keep kids in school and out of court for routine misconduct at school.

“We must demand safe and secure schools for our children and one way to help ensure that is strong state and local collaboration,” said Governor Cooper.

The Department of Health and Human Services presented opportunities for identifying students that might benefit from supports that reduce risk for violence. The presentation included an overview of specialized instructional support personnel as school mental health providers and practices in prevention and intervention supported by effective coordination and utilization of these providers.

“Children need safe schools and communities to get a healthy start and develop to their full potential,” said Dr. Mandy Cohen, Secretary of NC Health and Human Services. “Achieving that requires cross-sector collaboration to align efforts and investments to best support not only children but their families and communities.”

Governor Cooper’s proposed budget plan provided funding to hire more school nurses, counselors, psychologists, social workers, and school resource officers and for safety improvements and training at K-12 schools. The additional resources were among the recommendations included in a report by the Governor’s Crime Commission Special Committee on School Shootings issued earlier this year.

“Providing safer schools requires us all to work in partnership and communicate with each other,” Public Safety Secretary Erik A. Hooks said. “Through natural disasters and manmade disasters caused by crime and acts of terrorism, DPS stands firmly committed to working with all partners as we strive to create a true culture of prevention, protection, and preparedness for every school, community college and university. It is my sincere hope to ensure we never fall into a cycle of silence and complacency on this issue.”

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