Friday, January 4, 2013

Safety changes coming for CMS?

Superintendent Heath Morrison and his staff have been reviewing safety in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School three weeks ago.  A report could come as early as next week,  says spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte.

Just before the break, Morrison said he's looking at "facilities, planning and people."  For instance,  do some or all of the district's 159 schools need to add cameras,  buzz-in entry systems or fencing?  Are the right emergency plans in place,  and is everyone doing the expected drills?  Are more security staff needed,  and if so,  where will the money come from?

School resource officers are stationed in all CMS middle,  high and K-8 schools  (Oaklawn and Berryhill K-8s share one officer),  Stalberte said.  Those are sworn police officers who "carry the same equipment as patrol officers:  Firearm,  taser,  baton and (pepper) spray,"  according to Sgt. David Schwob of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department,  who oversees school officers.

Morrison noted that CMS is spending more just to keep that staffing at the same level.  The City of Charlotte shifted $2 million in costs for school resource officers to CMS this year,  and the district will have to find another $700,000 in next year's budget  "just to keep what we have,"  Morrison said.

CMS also has unarmed  "security associates"  in schools,  though their ranks were scaled back during recent budget cuts.

Morrison said he understands the fear that follows a violent incident.  He was a high school principal in Montgomery County,  Md.,  when snipers terrorized the Washington,  D.C.,  area in 2002.  A student was gunned down outside a school about 20 minutes from his,  and Morrison recalls that he and his staff lined the perimeter of the bus lots as students arrived and departed.   "I've never lived in a community where people were as paralyzed,"  he recalled.  "If you saw a white van, your heart dropped."

So Morrison says he wants to provide reassurance to families who are understandably spooked by the horrific images from Newton,  Conn.  But he says you also have to be honest: "You can't with 100 percent certainty say that you can keep a dangerous individual, armed at the level that of some of these individuals we've seen,  from getting into your school."

No Charlotte-area schools have faced an armed assault,  thank goodness.  What does happen is students showing up with guns or other weapons.  Morrison made an observation I've heard repeatedly from administrators,  teachers and school law enforcement:  In those cases,  the best defense is trusting relationships between students and faculty.  Most weapons are found because another student reports the situation.  And they're generally confiscated without chaos and injury because adults in the school can approach the armed student in a calm,  safe manner.


Anonymous said...

In order to lock my classroom door, I have to open it and lock it from the hall; it cannot be locked from inside the room. How safe are my students and I?

Anonymous said...

Does you child attend a minimum or maximum SECURITY SCHOOL?

Reggie Mantle said...

Ms. Helms,

What exactly is your job?

Do you sit and stare at your Inbox waiting for today's spoon fed press release from Latarza or Tahira or whomever?

How about some critical, investigative journalism? Start with the layers of middle managers CMS carries on the books year after year. Follow that with an audit of the FRL program.

Show us that you're not just a parrot for the CMS PR department.

Shamash said...

As usual, people tend to over-react to a well-publicized calamity like the one at Sandy Hook.

The risk of this happening is way overblown compared to everyday risks in some parts of our society, though.

But, it's in the headlines, so "authorities" have to look like they're doing something, I guess.

Basically, you can't stop crazy in this society, so good luck preventing the next Columbine or Sandy Hook.

It's probably better to focus on regular safety issues instead.

I also lived behind a school where a student was shot on a nearby street corner.

The community did not panic like the example Morrison gave of the school 20 minutes from his.

In fact, they hardly blinked.

The school was in a "bad" neighborhood and a shooting was just seen as part of the daily risk everyone in that neighborhood took.

(Including me, my wife, and son for living there...)

So we moved away from that problem.

I think situations like single shootings in "bad" neighborhoods are much more common and ultimately kill more than these highly publicized massacres.

But I don't think anyone is adding those up or treating them the same way as the high profile massacres.

But, ultimately, they are just as deadly.

Anonymous said...

Ask your Fire Marshall that question.

Anonymous said...

I was substitute teaching one time when a non-drill lock-down was called. I had absolutely no clue what to do. Fortunately, my class took immediate action and followed school safety procedures like clockwork. Doors were locked, lights turned off, and then we all sat silently in a corner of the room. Within seconds we heard helicopters overhead. Text and Twitter messaging indicated there was an armed person with gun in a park near the school. Another time, there was an incident involving a highly distraught student that required immediate assistance from a school psychologist, a security guard and a school administrator. I had no idea how to reach the front office by phone (doing so required knowing the front office number) so a couple of students had to run out of class, down and up two flights of stairs, and through two buildings to find people. The good news is that students responded to both incidences with remarkably swift and appropriate action. The bad news is I wasn't trained or adequately prepared to handle either situation in the role of a teacher.

Alicia Durand

Anonymous said...

Wild guess you lived near Beatties Ford Rd?

Anonymous said...

I personally have gone to my kids schools and signed in Daffy Duck with no question. This can be done today and any day next week. Heath your exposed and that has always been a lacking area for CMS security. However , When Eric Davis called a "private meeting" at Harding High last year he brought CMS security along for himself. How much did that cost?

Shamash said...

Anon 8:26.

No, this was Cincinnati.

Near a popular Catholic HS in a "transitioning" neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Certainly CMS is not going to reexamine their policy of allowing convicted felons in your child's classes. And certainly they will not reexamine their policy of moving your daughter to another school after she is raped in a school bathroom.

Anonymous said...

Not sure where this is coming from but I suspect the alleged bathroom rapist wasn't a parent but a fellow student. I think we seem to forget that fellow students pose a far greater safety risk in schools than some random parent signing in as Daffy Duck in the main office. I don't know if 6-12 schools pose a greater risk of inappropriate sexual contact between students but I have wondered about this.

Anonymous said...

The Greater Charlotte YMCA requires all employees from the COE to the pool cleaning kid to undergo annual CPR and basic first-aid training as a condition of employment. The Y takes this requirement very seriously and will terminate any employee who doesn't comply.

With a shortage of school nurses, are full-time CMS employees given the opportunity to take CPR and basic first-aid training? What about defibrillators? Do schools have this piece of safety equipment?

My son fell on a CMS school "track" one year (i.e. the school bus parking lot because the regular school playground was overrun with "mobile units") and was bleeding all over the place on his knee. The head of the school office called me to inform me of my son's injury and also to let me know that, by CMS policy, she wasn't allowed to do anything more than apply a wet brown paper towel from the boy's bathroom. Anything above and beyond this was considered "medical treatment" and therefore subject to a lawsuit. My son arrived home from school with gravel in his wound covered with a brown paper towel from the boy's bathroom. I can't make this stuff up. I swear.

Do current CMS "safety" guidelines encompass basic first-aid care? Just wondering....


Anonymous said...

Oh - this is the tip of a very large iceberg. Security issues, safety issues, lack of nurses, decent nutrition, etc. . . . . from a CMS elementary teacher's perspective the public would be shocked on what occurs on a daily basis in our schools. I hope and pray every day that a student does not have a serious medical emergency on my watch, bring a weapon, or that some unstable adult wonder in the school. This is a MAJOR issue and has been since before Sandy Hook. Wake up people! Test scores aren't all that matter in educating children!

Anonymous said...

My kid's school now says parents are not allowed in for lunch. I guess when you have no ideas you just do something to say you did something.

Anonymous said...

9:02 PM
That's ridiculous. Schools want involved parents in addition to involved community members which prohibits parents from eating lunch with their children? Are you kidding me? What about mentors, volunteers and lunch buddies? My husband tutored a 5th grader 1 - 2 times a week before school for almost a year in math. The kid was at risk of failing the EOG. He got to know the kid, bought him a book onetime (which his teacher said he was really excited about), and occasionally had lunch with him in the school cafeteria.

This policy wouldn't be acceptable to me. Does your school prohibit volunteers from eating in the school cafeteria? What about substitute teachers whose only requirement to sub is a high school diploma and a background check? What about maintenance workers who are in the building to fix things? My children's CMS elementary school had a couple of special lunch tables set up in the cafeteria just for parents and volunteers to eat with children. This was a big deal for kids - getting to sit at the special lunch tables with parents and volunteers. Kids looked forward to this. It meant you were a little bit special and showed that someone outside of school cared for you. It was also nice to meet other parents which created a sense of school community. By the time children reach middle and high school, they don't want their parents coming to school to eat lunch with them. Elementary school is different. Children like it when an adult they know comes to school, reads their class a story, or simply has lunch with them at lunchtime (unless you're at a school where lunch is served at 10:00 in the morning or 3:00 in the afternoon).

Is this what things have come to? How sad. Sad, sad, sad.