NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - School leaders hosted state and local officials for the seventh annual legislative luncheon on Thursday. Leaders say the yearly luncheon is a chance for officials to share the district's growth and progress as well as an opportunity to discuss legislative priorities and challenges facing the school system.
Around 20 elected officials attended the event, including Representative Deb Butler, Representative Ted Davis, Representative Holly Grange and Senator Michael Lee.
New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley presented a district overview identifying needs and challenges facing the school system. He said mental health, dedicated funding for technology, and facility needs as they relate to both safety and growth were key issues the county wanted to address with lawmakers.
Markley also thanked lawmakers for the class size bill, which gives school leaders more time to phase in changes to limit class sizes.
"It's critical to us. Also that fix for the arts was important to give assurances that what those teachers do is valuable and to continue to provide arts and music to all of our students," he said.
The program ended with a question and answer session with lawmakers.
During his remarks, Davis said he saw a need to improve school safety, but didn't see the need to arm teachers in the classroom.
"Teachers are very special people, and they have enough on their plate with trying to teach our children and give them a good education without having to worry about packing a firearm and getting involved in things that might be bad not only for the students but for them as well," Davis said.
He said the only people who should be armed in schools should be members of law enforcement or well-trained volunteers.
Davis is on the state's School Safety Committee along with Grange, who said teachers shouldn't be forced to be armed, but it may be an issue better addressed at the local level.
"There's some counties in the state where probably law enforcement wouldn't have any problem with teachers being armed," Grange said. "It's something where it's not going to be a one size fits all. We've got to put everything on the table then take things off as needed."
Lee and Butler also said they were against arming teachers in the classroom.
"I'm opposed to that particular policy and I think most folks in our area are," Lee said. "I think what we need to do is let educators focus on what they're there for and that's educating children, and we need to look at common sense solutions on how to make our schools safer."
Butler was not immediately available for comment following the event, but gave the following statement:
"I personally think that arming teachers is a very bad idea because teachers really want to teach," Butler said. "They're not in it for any other reason than improving childhood performance and learning, so I think arming them is a really bad idea. Instead, I think we should be banning military grade weapons. We should be finding the money to put more metal detectors in schools, but more importantly, we need to train more counselors and personnel to spot troubled children to get them the help they need."