Lawmakers announced the state budget would include tens of millions of dollars for school safety initiatives on Thursday as part of a comprehensive plan to invest in protecting students in North Carolina classrooms.
The recommendations provide more mental health opportunities for students, better preparation for threats and more resource officers in school systems across the state.
“We are focused not only on immediate needs to protect our children from attackers, but preventing crises from arising with a proactive approach,” said Rep. David Lewis (R-Harnett), a co-chair of the state House Select Committee on School Safety.
The proposals include more mental health opportunities in school systems like counseling and peer-to-peer programs for students.
“We need to do more and we will do more to keep our children safe, and this is an important first step in the right direction,” said Sen. Ron Rabin (R-Harnett), Senate Chairman of the Joint Legislative Emergency Management Oversight Committee.
Adding more resource officers to North Carolina schools is also a priority in lawmakers’ comprehensive plan released Thursday.
“We had a consensus view that more personnel was needed in our schools to increase safety,” said Rep. Josh Dobson, chairman of the school safety subcommittee on mental health.
The budget proposals provide an additional $10 million for school nurses and psychologists, as well as funding for more school resource officers.
“These investments begin the process of providing our state the necessary resources to safeguard our children’s mental and physical health,” said Rep. John Torbett (R-Gaston), a co-chair of the state House Select Committee on School Safety.
Lawmakers heard extensively from school safety experts about reforms that ensure a safe learning environment where students and teachers can thrive.
“We share the public’s sense of urgency to keep our kids as safe as possible in schools,” Moore said. “Lawmakers remain vigilant to improve classroom safety by every means available.”
Legislators said the school safety initiatives include innovative ideas and investments in the priorities of education leaders, mental health providers and law enforcement professionals in North Carolina.
Leveraging federal funds with state spending is also a priority of the proposals detailed by Rep. Donny Lambeth (R-Forsyth), an appropriations chairman in the state House of Representatives.
“We’re making a substantial commitment to school safety this morning, but we’re doing to do more as we go into the second year as the grant programs are rolled out,” Lambeth said. “We will build those into our base to continue to expand services around school safety in North Carolina.”
Senator Tamara Barringer (R-Wake) praised the inclusion of mental health grants.
“We are going on the offensive for families in crisis,” Barringer said. “This is a way to short-circuit that cycle to get children the help they need, so we’ll have happy families, healthy children and safe children in our schools.”
The budget proposals fully fund an app in middle schools and high schools in North Carolina for students to confidentially report information to school faculty and law enforcement personnel.
“We’ve learned human intel is our prime resource, and sometimes our only resource, to know what happened,” said Rep. Donna White (R-Johnston).
The ‘SPK UP’ app has been used in pilot programs in five schools statewide.
The school safety budget proposals announced by lawmakers include:
- $5 million for a SPK UP “like” app
- School safety leaders are fully funding this priority of North Carolina students
- The app allows reporting of threats and abuse in a confidential setting
- The app will provide full-time support from a team to actively triage threats.
- The app was a priority identified by the Center for Safer Schools.
- $12 million for the School Resource Officer grant program.
- $7 million in current funding + $5 million in additional funds.
- $2 match for every $1 in local funds.
- Funding can be used for salaries and benefits, training or both.
- $2 million for community partners to provide mental health-related grants for students in crisis.
- Can include LME/MCOs.
- Crisis services, foster families.
- Peer to Peer Counseling (Up to 10% of total).
- $3 million in grants for mental health training for school safety employees
- $3 million School Safety equipment grants
- $10 million in mental health grants for personnel.
- Total: $35 million
+$30-90 million in new federal funding by leveraging existing local spending
Lawmakers have also filed policy bills related to school safety in the 2018 legislative session:
- H.B. 933 Reciprocity/School Psychologist Licensure
- H.B. 934 Threat Assessment Teams/Peer to Peer Counsels
- H.B. 937 SROs Defined/Training Standards
- H.B. 938 Expand Use/School Risk Management Plans
- H.B. 939 School Building Vulnerability Assessments
- H.B. 940 SRO Report by LBEs to Center for Safer Schools