© 2023 WFAE
90.7 Charlotte 93.7 Southern Pines 90.3 Hickory 106.1 Laurinburg
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
An in-depth look at our region's emerging economic, social, political and cultural identity.

Efforts Ongoing To Make Students, Staff Feel Safe At Butler High

Police cars are stationed outside of Butler High School after the October 2018 shooting.
FILE: Police cars are stationed outside of Butler High School

Numerous guns have been confiscated from Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ students—19 were discovered in the 2016/17 school year—six as of November this year. No shootings had occurred on campuses in recent years but in October, 16-year-old Bobby McKeithen was fatally shot at Butler High School in Matthews. Fellow student Jatwan Cuffie, also 16, has been charged in the shooting.

CMS officials are seeking ways to keep guns out of schools and are also looking for means to help students, staff and parents cope following a gun incident. At Butler, psychologists, social workers and counselors were sent in to provide immediate counseling. According to Cotrane Penn, CMS’ executive director for student wellness and academic support, that assistance is ongoing at Butler. She talks with WFAE’s Gwendolyn Glenn.

Cotrane Penn: We did install school-based mental health programs at Butler. Prior to the shooting, they did not have that program on their campus. The Butler staff has been meeting with those students identified as likely needing follow up support.

Gwendolyn Glenn: How did you identify those students and who were they?

CP:  The school principal did an amazing job of talking to both students and staff in the aftermath about seeking help if needed if they were struggling emotionally, having trouble sleeping, feeling sad or scared. There was a media center full of professionals who could see them. We had parents who brought their children down to the counseling center following the shooting, staff walked students down but most with encouragement from their parents and staff identified themselves as needing to talk to somebody.

GG: What kinds of things will you add at schools other than Butler?

CP: We will provide more professional development for our counselors, social workers and psychologists to help them understand common needs of students so they can identify when they are anxious and stressful. We’ll build the core skills of our core based staff so they can pour that into our students.

GG:  Any new programs you are implementing to help with issues like the Butler incident to meet students, parents and teachers' needs.

CP: There’s a federal grant called the School Emergency Response to Violence Grant that we are applying for that. It has been awarded to schools that have made the national news like the Parkland (Florida) shooting.

GG: How will you use that grant money?

CP: We are looking at using funding to increase student access to increase counseling support and supplement funding needs for families that need therapy that may not be able to afford insurance copays and out-of-pocket mental health treatment costs. We’re also looking at providing funding for substitute teachers so if we have teachers who need to go to therapy or take other actions to address their self-care needs, we can cover the costs of their substitute. The primary goal is to rebuild the school community and restore it to safety that the school had prior to those awful events in October.

Hear the full interview in the audio above.

Gwendolyn is an award-winning journalist who has covered a broad range of stories on the local and national levels. Her experience includes producing on-air reports for National Public Radio and she worked full-time as a producer for NPR’s All Things Considered news program for five years. She worked for several years as an on-air contract reporter for CNN in Atlanta and worked in print as a reporter for the Baltimore Sun Media Group, The Washington Post and covered Congress and various federal agencies for the Daily Environment Report and Real Estate Finance Today. Glenn has won awards for her reports from the Maryland-DC-Delaware Press Association, SNA and the first-place radio award from the National Association of Black Journalists.