NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – Leaders from New Hanover and Pender Counties came together Tuesday morning to talk about how to react in a dangerous situation similar to the shooting at Sandy Hook.
The goal is to make this panel a monthly meeting rather than a reactive, onetime event. District Attorney Ben David emphasized that Tuesday's meeting was not an event, but a process.
"We are not here because of panic after Sandy Hook-- we're here to talk about evidence of best practices to help us with the road ahead," explained David.
Additionally, the district attorney said the meeting isn't about bullet proofing schools; it's about making changes from the behavioral level up to the physical security level.
Larry Bonney, a retired special agent and FBI founding member of hostage rescue, said you have to focus on behavior first and foremost. He said isolating a child can be lethal.
"Kids need to be involved in something, accepted by someone or something," explained Bonney.
Bonney said it's important for all educators to be able to recognize children who question where they belong, as those types of feelings are dangerous in teen development.
According to key findings of the Safe School Initiative, targeted violence is rarely a sudden or impulsive act and most attackers don't threaten their targets before the incident occurs.
The official document went on to say most attackers had a hard time coping with a significant loss or personal failure in their life before a shooting incident.
The key findings showed most shooting incidences were stopped by something other than law enforcement, despite prompt response.
In 80% of school shooting cases, shooters didn't threaten the targets directly but they did communicate their intent/ plan to others before hand.
There have been at least five school shooting cases across the country that were stopped early because someone saw a sign, like an unusual student essay.
Chris Roberts, an advocate for the Watch D.O.G.S. program, spoke to the benefits of having fathers and male role models in the classroom. Eight schools in New Hanover County currently have active programs, and Roberts said more schools, including those in neighboring counties is the next step.
"All we need are those helpful parents and an administration that's prepared to accommodate their needs to give these children what they need to be successful," Roberts said.
Attorneys added their expertise on public records and sharing information. Richard Schwartz of Raleigh explained the importance of one agency keeping all the others updated on a student's situation.
Talk is fine, but Schwartz said a plan needs to be made. The attorney said all of the agencies involved in a student's life need to be included in an agreement that spells out responsibilities.
"We're learning every day more and better ways to respond, anticipate and prevent school violence," he said.
Before the summit ended, leaders met in a private session to discuss the future of school safety moving forward.
Leaders ranging from school administrators and SROs to commissioners and mental health professionals were at the Summit on School Safety meeting.
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