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Leaders and parents discuss safety in New Hanover County schools

Administrators told parents they want to improve those lines of communication to let families know about potential problems before violence happens
Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 10:24 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - School safety has been a top concern among parents since the shooting at New Hanover High School at the beginning of this school year.

[911 logs flesh out timeline for response to shooting at New Hanover High School]

Wednesday night, community leaders and school officials addressed parents’ concerns in a virtual forum. The panel spoke on a variety of topics including student’s relationships with School Resource Officers (SRO’s) and the line of communication between the school district and parents.

Administrators told parents they want to improve those lines of communication to let families know about potential problems before violence happens.

“We want to provide timely, accurate, actionable information to families, but not in a way that unnecessarily induces or causes panic or rushes on schools,” said Josh Smith, chief communications officer for New Hanover County Schools.

Smith adds, however, that providing accurate information can be difficult because of students’ abilities to share information through text messaging and social media.

“The challenge is that, despite amazing tools, great training, dedicated staff, principals, we’re going to get this right and we’re going to get it out fast,” said Smith. “We’ll never be faster than a middle schooler or a high schooler with a cell phone, and that’s where misinformation becomes rife and virality comes into play.”

[New Hanover County holds public forum to address community violence]

Parents also expressed concerns over the relationship between students and SRO’s both inside and outside of school. Lieutenant E. P. Brown, SRO Commander with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, reminded parents as to why officers are placed in the hallways.

“There’s a triad for the school resource officers. It’s protect, mentor, and educate,” said Brown. “We are there to protect the kids, we’re not there to scare the kids, we’re not there to bully the kids, that’s not what were there for.”

School leadership plans to make sure students feel more comfortable around those there to protect them both inside and outside of school.

“We have to make sure that we are using our officers in a light where it’s proactive versus we are putting them in a position that shows negativity towards them,” said Dr. Charles Foust, superintendent of New Hanover County Schools.

The forum Wednesday night was the second of two hosted by New Hanover County this week to address violence. The forum held Monday night focused on violence in the community.

To find out how to watch a recording of each of these two discussions, click here.

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