Lawmakers on the House Select Committee on School Safety have been meeting in different parts of the state over the last month. Their aim is to hear new ideas and recommend funding and legislation to make public schools safer. Gun control is not on the commitee's agenda. Republican Rep. Craig Horn of Union County told WFAE Morning Edition host Lisa Worf why that's not the case, and what he expects the committee to recommend.
Lisa Worf: So we realize this committee isn't looking at gun-control measures. Should it be?
Rep. Horn: Well, that's part and parcel of it. But it's only one piece and it's of course a highly controversial piece, but it is only one piece.
Lisa Worf: And why not a piece to look at?
Rep. Horn: Well it's not that it's not a piece to look at. I'm sure we will, but as I just said it's only one piece and to focus on gun control as the singular answer or the singular cause or anything else, it would be not only inappropriate it would be incorrect. Gun control is a highly is highly controversial as we all know. There are people that have dug their heels in on both sides of that issue as well as some differences, reasonable differences of opinion in the middle. But as I said for the Committee on School Safety to focus only on gun control or to use that is as the top of the page story I think would be inappropriate and incorrect.
Lisa Worf: So we tend to focus on outsiders coming in. Has there been much discussion of students being the threat in schools?
Rep. Horn: Oh there's been a lot of discussion of that. And that's why we've actually chosen to focus more than anything else on mental health issues. The kids across the state have joined into the discussion. I hope that they will join in to a greater extent. They consistently talk about the need for more mental health services inside the schools, that the biggest threats in their opinion - and this is the students as well as the experts - comes from inside not from outside.
Lisa Worf: So what are you going to recommend on that front then?
Rep. Horn: I believe we will recommend a significant increase in funding for mental health services. Expanding the presence and the training for our school resource officers, and expanding training for teachers. The challenge in that last piece is we already ask a tremendous amount from our teachers. I don't know how much we can continue to pile on their plate. We all take responsibility, and that brings me to our parents. We need to provide better information to the parents on how to deal with their own children.
Lisa Worf: Now as far as mental health, you've got funding for some of those things you talked about. Is there more to be done?
Rep. Horn: Yes, there is definitely more to be done. One of the first things we're doing is we're working with the state Board of Education on school psychologist reciprocity. As you might remember, there was a bill in the legislature in the last session to allow North Carolina to accept credentials from other states for school psychologists -- people that move here and want to want to participate in the education system. We make them jump through hoops to be licensed all over again. We've discovered that the state Board of Education can allow reciprocity without the need for legislation.
Lisa Worf: Now we're running out of time right now but I do want to get just into another question in. How do you prevent guns from getting into schools?
Rep. Horn: It's apparent that metal detectors are going to have to be more used in a broader or more frequent manner. But it's not just metal detectors, again it's creating an atmosphere where the kids are not afraid to come forward and say we had a problem in this school: 'Joey's brought a weapon into the school.' And not have it as a black mark against the kid that acknowledges or reports it. Don't put people on the spot. Use the information appropriately to diffuse potential dangerous situations early.