© 2021 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Education

Bill Would Require Threat Assessment Teams In All North Carolina Public Schools

Rocky River search 2.jpeg
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
Before the pandemic, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools searched high school students' bags to prevent guns from getting in.

As the pandemic begins to abate and mass shootings rock the nation, North Carolina's House Education Committee took up a bill Tuesday that would mandate threat assessment teams in every public school and encourage them in private schools.

State Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican who co-chairs the committee, says he believes the U.S. Secret Service has a plan that can head off school violence before it starts.

"In my heart of hearts I believe it is the silver bullet to school safety," he said. "It is the answer. It is what we can do to help fix it."

House Bill 657, which won the committee’s bipartisan endorsement, would require all district and charter schools to set up in-house teams trained to recognize signs that anyone within the school is at risk of harming themselves or others. The teams could include school-based police officers, known as SROs, but would be primarily educators.

"It’s your principal. It’s your counselor, it’s your nurse, it’s your coach. It’s your SRO. It’s your math, it’s your English teacher," Torbett said after a member questioned whether the Secret Service would be present in schools.

The goal would be to refer troubled students for treatment before any harm happens, Torbett said. He urged colleagues to look up the Secret Service’s guide to school safety.

"It’s not a punitive program," he said. "It’s an aid-and-assist program."

Torbett and other lawmakers say many schools are already doing this kind of work, but they want it to be more consistent. The bill would make safety measures that are currently optional for charter schools mandatory and would encourage private schools to take part.

Want to read more about education in the Carolinas each week? Sign up here for WFAE Education News, our weekly email newsletter, to have WFAE's top education stories, with a recap from reporter Ann Doss Helms, delivered straight to your inbox.