Wanted: Community at safety meeting

Feb. 23, 2013 @ 12:52 PM

Community members have been invited to a meeting Tuesday night to discuss the safety and protection of all youth.

The meeting, sponsored by the Vance County Board of Education and Community and Business Relations Committee, will take place at E.M. Rollins Elementary School in the auditorium beginning at 7 p.m.

With fear and concern for safety on the rise in the wake of four carjackings, which also included two sexual assaults, and the shooting death of a 17-year-old midday on Thursday, the meeting falls at a critical time. Three teens have been shot to death in the last eight months.

The school board’s Community and Business Relations Committee developed the idea alongside Ronald Gregory, superintendent of Vance County Schools, shortly after the Dec. 11 shooting death of Deonte Judkins, a 16-year-old student at Northern Vance.

Clayton Batchelor, a 14-year-old, was shot to death in the early morning hours of July 4 along Williams Street.

“We continue to lose kids, and I say kids whether they’re in our school or not,” Gregory said. “I had planned to have this thing a little earlier, and definitely before we had another shooting.”

Each high school, middle school and Vance-Granville Community College will have two representatives present to talk about their overall feeling toward safety.

“Based upon what they say, and any other speaker that may decide to sign up, we will then put those comments together, analyze them, and come up with a strategy to put some of these fears kids have aside,” Gregory said. “The bottom line is to have all of the players — the business community, and citizens, and law enforcement, church folk, city folk, school folk, folk with the judicial system, recreation department, all these organizations to sit as an audience and listen to what kids have to say about how they feel in this community.”

Keith Sidwell, chief of police, is scheduled to join other members of the Henderson Police Department and Vance County Sheriff’s Office in attendance during Tuesday night’s meeting.

Over 100 other invitations were sent to clubs, organizations, non-profits, church representatives, principals, assistant principals, teachers, judges, lawyers and others in an effort to have as much attendance as possible.

Tuesday night’s meeting will be the first of a series of meetings aimed at making the community of Vance County and the city of Henderson a safer place for all.

“This will be part of what we hope will be a series of meetings,” said Terri Hedrick, public information officer for Vance County Schools. “It’s an information session more than an open forum for comment although we do want to hear from folks.”

Participants who plan to address the audience are asked to bring prepared written statements to share with the school board, as well as with other participating organizations.

“Sometimes we need to hear it from the ones that are out there really living the experience,” Gregory said. “Our schools are about as safe as our community.”

Contact the writer at amauser@hendersondispatch.com.