Education

Every Wake County school will get a security audit. Will your children be safer?

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Wake County Sheriffs' deputies who work as school resource officers trained for an active shooter scenario

All 192 campuses in the Wake County school system will be reviewed to determine what changes can be made to make the schools safer for students and school employees.

The Florida-based School Safety Advocacy Council began visiting Wake schools on Tuesday as part of a $728,995 contract signed in July to do security risk assessments of all of the campuses. Leaders from the school district and the advocacy council say that while some physical changes may be recommended, the greatest safety measure still is building relationships with students.

*Safety and security is everybody’s responsibility in a district,” said Curt Lavarello, the group’s executive director. “It doesn’t fall on one person, one name, one title at a specific school site.”

School safety has become more of a concern since the February 2018 mass school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Several other mass shootings around the country since then, though not at schools, have heightened concerns even further.

The school board received an overview of the new contract on Tuesday. The reviews will be completed within the next six months, but recommendations for specific schools will be presented in closed session to the board.

Lavarello said the goal of the audits is to identify specific strategies to make schools safer, reduce crime, violence and disruptive behavior; reduce potential liability and improve school-community relations.

As part of the review, Lavarello said they’ll look at areas such as safety policies, how visitors are managed, traffic flow and signage. Lavarello said the reviews are being conducted by people with law enforcement or education experience.

“It takes a lot for a district to open it up and say take a good look at our district and how we’re doing and let us know the things that we are doing right and where there are some opportunities to strengthen safety and security of our kids and our faculty and our staff,” Lavarello said.

Lavarello said that they’re not going to recommend that schools be made like jails.

Board members cited how some groups aren’t comfortable with having school resource officers, which are armed law enforcement officers, on campus. Lavarello was asked to look at the district’s agreement with school resource officers and the validity of alternatives to the armed officers.

“This is a very engaged board that is looking to make schools phenomenal places for kids,” said school board chairman Jim Martin.

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T. Keung Hui has covered K-12 education for the News & Observer since 1999, helping parents, students, school employees and the community understand the vital role education plays in North Carolina. His primary focus is Wake County, but he also covers statewide education issues.
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