Anti-bullying, school suspensions cited in school safety report

Sep. 07, 2013 @ 06:37 AM

WILMINGTON — A new school safety report from Gov. Pat McCrory's administration stresses stronger anti-bullying efforts in North Carolina schools and better ways to punish students beyond out-of-school suspension.

McCrory received a school safety report Friday with nearly 80 recommendations from Department of Public Safety Secretary Frank Perry at a Wilmington news conference. The study stems from a school safety office created in Perry's agency six months ago. Nine public forums were held this past spring seeking input.

"My goal is to make the campuses of our high schools and our junior highs and our elementary schools and our universities in the future, the safest places in North Carolina," McCrory said. "That is our responsibility of everyone from the governor all the way down to the parent. It has to be a collaborative effort. We cannot leave it up to the teachers and the principals and the students. We have to help from the outside also."

Other recommendations outlined in the report include educating local schools and school systems on the harmful impacts of bullying and cyber-bullying. The report also encourages schools to apply alternatives to out-of-school suspension as well as effective strategies for school resource officers.

"Our goal is to work with local stakeholders to address the physical, mental and social factors that contribute to youth violence so that our schools remain a safe and secure learning environment," Perry said in a statement.

The governor's office said there has been progress on some of the report's recommendations, such as additional resources for hiring school resource officers in elementary and middle schools and encouraging schools to hold a system wide school safety and school lockdown exercise.

The Republican governor also announced a new safe-school task force to keep looking at safety strategies. The panel will consist of 20 members, each of whom will be appointed by the governor for two-year terms.

The General Assembly approved this summer in the state budget $9 million annually for the next two years to provide matching funds to local school districts so they can hire more school resource officers in elementary and middle schools and to install panic alarm systems in classrooms that contact directly with local emergency services.

In March, McCrory announced the North Carolina Center for Safer Schools as a clearinghouse for safety methods being used across the state and nation and as a body that would make possible recommendations to the General Assembly to consider. Referring to the December school massacre in Newtown, Conn., McCrory said the center also would create a "comprehensive strategy not based upon just emotion or on the politics of the day."