The NC Board of Elections is seeking public comment on 2 proposed rules regarding the implementation of the voter ID law until March  15th. Links and suggestions for input from Democracy NC are here. For other upcoming events, check the top of last Monday's post.

Screening of the documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope Thursday, March 14 from 7-8:30 pm at Crossroads II 110 Corning Road Cary, NC 27518  Room 1400 Hosted by Public Schools First NC, Wake County PTA Council, and Wake NCAE

As discussed last week, House bill 216, the School Self-Defense Act, introduced by Rep. Pittman, passed it's first reading. If  passed into law it would "authorize certain members of the faculty or staff of a school to carry a handgun on the school grounds to respond  to acts of violence or an imminent threat of violence."

This week Senate Bill 192, the School Security Act of 2019, was filed. According to WRAL, it would "give teachers a 5 percent raise to become sworn police officers. The teachers could carry concealed weapons in their classrooms and would have arrest powers under the proposal."

In an interview with WRAL, Mark Jewell, President of the North Carolina Association of Educators said, 'Everyone wants safe school environments. However, we feel that this  is a very dangerous approach and a disaster waiting to happen. . . . Teachers want more social workers and psychologists in their schools, not more weapons.'

Spending money to train teachers to carry concealed weapons is another example of a "band-aid on a bullet wound" approach. Sadly, this time we could actually be talking about actual bullet wounds! Why would we wait until an act of violence was taken against our students and staff to act? They deserve better than that! When will we learn that "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?" Where is the support to increase funding for more counselors, social workers, psychologists, and nurses? At least we know Governor Cooper supports this as his proposed budget would "provide $40 million to hire more school nurses, counselors, psychologists, social workers and school resource officers." (read more about Governor Cooper's budget here.)

School staff are our primary source for prevention of potential tragedies. They have the ability to get to know students, build relationships, and understand patterns of behavior. They can be the first line of defense against bullying. They can be a trusted adult for children who don't feel they have anyone to turn to at home. Read more in Will More Guns Make Schools Safer?

Thankfully, there are two bills that if passed could contribute to preventing school violence. (Please contact your senators and representatives to show your support for these bills.) They are

  1. House Bill 75, School Mental Health Screening Study

Would study the development of a mental health screening process for children in NC public schools. Passed the House and has been referred to the Committee on Rules and Operations of the Senate.

2. House Bill 76, School Safety Omnibus,

Would make various changes to improve school safety including requiring threat assessment teams, additional student supports, school resource officer training (including "training on the following topics: mental health, students with disabilities, racial equity, and crisis intervention and de-escalation,") and vulnerability assessments. Passed House and moving on to Senate.

(Thank you to Public Schools First NC for education bill summaries. See more here.)

Unfortunately, NC is not new to these band-aid solutions. NC reportedly spends more than three times more per prison inmate as compared to per student (see here). This is particularly important to note because we know that investing in education is associated with less incarceration. The U.S. Department of Education reported that, "one study also shows young black men between the ages of 20 and 24 who do not have a high school diploma or an equivalent credential have a greater chance of  being incarcerated than employed. [Furthermore], researchers have estimated that a 10 percent increase in high school graduation rates results in a 9 percent decline in criminal arrest rates." As stated in an ACLU report, "the school-to-prison pipeline begins with inadequate resources in public schools."

According to another ACLU report, Cops and No Counselors: How the Lack of School Mental Health Staff Is Harming Students, "today’s school children are experiencing record levels of depression and anxiety, alongside multiple forms of trauma." They report increased rates of suicide in elementary- through high school-aged students and say "approximately 72 percent of children in the United States will have experienced at least one major stressful event . . . before the age of 18." Furthermore, "school counselors, nurses, social workers, and psychologists are frequently the first to see children who are sick, stressed, traumatized, may act out, or may hurt themselves or others." NC Schools do not meet the 750:1 recommended student-to-nurse ratio or the recommended 250:1 student-to-counselor ratio. Read more about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) here and here and see NC stats here. Public Schools First NC reports the average numbers of counselors, social workers, psychologist, and nurses in our NC schools. Also, they provide recommendations for what we can do to help with ACEs including

Educate ourselves and others to understand ACEs and resilience.
Advocate for more state and local resources to hire more helping professionals.
Advocate for trauma-informed training for all school staff and for implementing trauma-informed district-wide policies and programs.
Advocate for better healthcare and mental health for children and families in our community.

What can you do?

Contact your senators and representatives and tell them to arm schools with resources not guns! Tell them our students deserve better. No more band-aid solutions!

Tell them to support House Bill 75, School Mental Health Screening Study and House Bill 76, School Safety Omnibus.

Tell them to show up on Thursday, March 14 from 7-8:30 pm at Crossroads II 110 Corning Road Cary, NC 27518  Room 1400 to learn more about ACEs at the screening of the documentary Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope. (Hosted by Public Schools First NC, Wake County PTA Council, and Wake NCAE.)

Show up to the screening of Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope to be better informed about ACEs and talk to lawmakers about how they can help.

We must stop the band-aid solutions! We must invest in our schools, NOW!

Note: another bill related to school safety: House Bill 74, 2019 School Safety Grants Program, enacts the 2019 School Safety Grants Program and increases funding for school resource officer grants. It was referred to the Committee on Appropriations - Education.

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