High school crisis alert system unveiled by new superintendent

High school crisis alert system unveiled by new superintendent

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — School security is one of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools' top priorities after last year's deadly shooting at Butler High School.

The CMS police chief and superintendent updated parents Wednesday morning on how they're planning to keep students safe ahead of the upcoming school year.

[ALSO READ: CMS board names Earnest Winston superintendent in unanimous vote]

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Students saw plenty of security changes last year, and more are on the way.

One major change is the crisis alert system, which is moving into all high schools after being piloted at Charlotte East Language Academy last year. With the new program, all staff will have a panic card that can trigger the system. The system then sends school-wide alerts for lockdowns, evacuations, severe weather or emergency medical situations.

The button for the alert will light up a different color and make announcements based on the type of emergency and it also pinpoints on a map where the threat is happening.

The district's goal is to eventually move the system into all middle and elementary schools as well.

The district now has more than 7,000 cameras monitoring schools and they have provided active survival training for all employees, which is more than 8,000 people.

They also made physical improvements with upgraded locks, stronger doors, and digital access controls for main entries.

Another big change is the use of K-9 officer Nico to sniff out firearms. He's already found one gun during the summer session and will be used in random screenings alongside metal detectors and wands.

"Based on the incidents that we’ve had in our school system the past few years we felt it was necessary to take this to another level, which is, conduct these searches in the schools and our best way to do that is with the K-9," said CMS police Chief Lisa Mangum.

CMS has been working to improve safety measures since a deadly shooting inside Butler High School shook the community last October.

Last month, Jatwan Cuffie pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter after shooting and killing his classmate Bobby McKeithen

The shooting happened in a hallway right before classes were about to start.

According to officials, 19 guns were found in CMS schools last school year -- 16 at high schools and three in middle schools.

After the tragedy, CMS started doing random security checks in high schools with metal detector wands. Schools also added more video surveillance, fencing and enhanced locks.

As the district ramps up security measures, Superintendent Earnest Winston was clear Wednesday -- student safety is a community responsibility.

"Our students and staff safety and security is dependent upon all of us inside classrooms, on all our campuses, in our homes, in our neighborhoods," Winston said. "Safety and security is everyone's responsibility. If you see something that makes you feel unsafe, say something to an adult."

Random security screenings are also moving into middle and K-8 schools, in addition to high schools.

Nico will be used, along with portable metal detectors and wands, to speed up the process and cover as much ground as possible.

CMS families told Channel 9's Tina Terry the growth of mass shootings nationally makes the changes even more important.

"I'm concerned and think any precautions are good so kids can go to school feel safe if something happens, there is a quick response," one family said.

Check back with wsoctv.com for updates.