School safety and security: Wake County schools committee meet after series of lockdowns

Wednesday, March 1, 2023
School safety top of mind at Wake County Schools
School safety top of mind at Wake County Schools after recent string of gun-related incidents.

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Wake County School Board met on Tuesday to discuss safety and security in light of recent lockdowns and weapon scares across their schools.

Much of the detailed discussion was private in a closed session but the topic remains in the spotlight as parents grow weary of weapons being found on campus.

In Wake County Schools this year, there have been at least three instances where a gun was found on campus.

It's a growing concern among parents like Logan Johnson, who believe metal detectors can be a solution.

"I would love to see armed security and metal detectors at every single school," said Johnson. "We pay for so many different things at our school, different programs. I don't see why we as a citizenry can't afford to protect our kids by having those measures of security in place."

Wake County Sheriff Willie Rowe said there has been an uptick in guns found on school campuses but a metal detector isn't an easy solution

"Sometimes things may look like a simple fit, but it's more complicated. There are more moving parts than you realize. You can put metal detectors in but, you got to make sure everything is deployed in the proper way and ensure that doesn't disrupt current operations," said Rowe.

The sheriff said one way to keep guns out of school is to hold both parents and students responsible when a gun is found on campus.

"We believe that if we make timely arrests, we can remove that tool that is utilized to threaten the school, to disrupt daily operations, and incite fear and terror," Rowe said.

Adriana Navarro, a parent, called the whole situation "ridiculous."

"To have your children now go to school and be fearful that there might be a lockdown or someone here that brought a weapon, it's heartbreaking," she said.

Navarro has children who attend Wake County schools, including a daughter who she said doesn't feel safe as a student and a victim of bullying.

"As a parent, you shouldn't have to worry about your child getting harmed at school by another student because they're choosing to bring a weapon," Navarro said.

The Wake County school district recently hired a third-party security firm to take a comprehensive look at security measures at all schools. While the independent auditors did not recommend metal detectors, the school system said it's still on the table.

Wake County School Board met on Tuesday to discuss safety and security in light of a recent string of lockdowns and weapon scares across their schools.

Meanwhile, director of security Russ Smith detailed seven focus areas for schools, including a new visitor management system that would record child custody information to alert the school when someone who doesn't have permission signs out a student.

"What you're going to see is the same hardware and software at every location," Smith said. "So it's important to have that consistency for parents to have familiarity with the system and the ease of use."

Smith also discussed the state of school resource officers in Wake County, including the shortage of off-duty officers for athletic events. The comment comes as extra security officers were on duty this past weekend at Millbrook High School, where a young man brought an AR-15 to a basketball game Thursday night.

"We've had a few shortages in a few areas in where schools are having to share SROs at the middle school level," Smith said. "Our high school level is covered 100%."

Smith praised the Wake County Sheriff's Office for their help in filling the void.

Law officers have responded to threats at Wake Forest Middle, Zebulon Magnet, Rolesville High, East Millbrook Magnet, East Garner Middle and Southeast Raleigh Magnet Middle schools.

Wake County hired independent auditors to take a comprehensive look at school security measures.

Wake County Public Schools met for the first time Tuesday after a slew of lockdowns in the district last week.

The auditors presented the findings at last week's school board meeting.

They did not recommend metal detectors, but the school system says that remains an option for discussion.

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