'It's a huge challenge': CMS announces new safety and security measures

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Channel 9 spoke to CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox on Wednesday, just a day after the district announced they would start a new screening process in high schools by the end of January.

"We think we have good plans. We think the plans are laid out, but until you actually execute the plans ,you don’t know, so there's a little fear," said Wilcox.

Wilcox said they will randomly pick a school by literally pulling a name out of a jar and will screen all students at the school as they walk in.

Wilcox said: "We're not going to target individual kids based on their race, based on what they wear. This is about a whole school."

Channel 9 looked at state data and found that, of the 318 incidents where a student had a weapon on a CMS campus, over 100 were on middle school campuses.

Eyewitness News Anchor Elsa Gillis asked Wilcox why they don't start implementing screenings at middle schools, too.

"I think what you’ll see from us is that we're gonna stay focused on the high schools. In the middle schools, I think we have, for the most part, much better relationships. Kids are a little more trusting," said Wilcox.

Wilcox said that this is a process. They'll see what works and what doesn't. He said they will likely start by doing several random searches a month.

In November, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools announced that additional measures would be taken to help keep students and staff safe in schools.

On Tuesday, CMS officials announced those new security measures.

The district laid out three different examples explaining how they plan to search all of the students at random:

  • The first model involves choosing a high school and screening every student inside.
  • The second model involves choosing a building on that campus and screening those students, but not the entire school.
  • The third option breaks it down by classroom and uses gunpowder-sniffing dogs. Students would be screened in the hallway and their bags screened in the classroom. The students and dogs would never come in contact with each other.

"The shooting at Butler changed the game in this community," CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said. "Just leaves all of us sad and struck by it, that there's got to be a better way. I think the biggest challenge for us, when you run the math and say how are you going to get through these processes, that becomes the challenge and what do you do with kids who don't want to be screened?"

Board member Erika Ellis-Stewart pointed out another challenge.

"The fact that guns are so readily available to our young people and within communities, it's a huge challenge," said Ellis-Stewart. "Just to ensure that as we try to keep safety in school, that black or brown children or students who are coming from poverty, those who are English language learners aren't pigeonholed or profiled."

Wilcox said the district is trying to make sure that doesn't happen.

Below are the actions CMS plans to implement for safety: 

Safety screenings to help keep weapons out of schools

  • To help keep weapons out of schools, CMS will begin safety screenings at a randomly selected high school within the next few weeks.
  • The screening tools, procedures and staff training are being designed to respect the rights and privacy of students and minimize disruption to teaching and learning while deterring weapons being brought into schools.
  • Various tools will be deployed including metal detection wands, portable metal detectors, bag searches and use of a dog trained to detect gunpowder. The dog will not come into contact with students.
  • A high school will be chosen at random for the first screening. All students in the randomly selected school will be screened. No individual student will be chosen randomly.
  • Safety screening communications will help make sure students, families and staff and community know what to expect step-by-step during a screening.

Expanded video surveillance for better monitoring and response times

  • Cameras and monitors are being upgraded with priority on elementary schools.
  • Additional equipment will enhance views of playgrounds and mobiles.
  • Upgrades have been completed at 11 schools and an additional 15 schools are estimated for completion by the end of January.
  • Work will continue through June for completion at all schools.

Deploying crisis alert systems so help arrives faster

  • These systems enable any staff member to instantly call for help, and identify location and level of crisis to enable best response for medical, law enforcement or other assistance.
  • The first crisis alert system has been installed in the pilot school. Systems at eight additional schools will be installed in January and approximately eight more by end of March.
  • A Crisis Alert Advisory Group is being formed to finalize best practices and designate training guidelines.

Enhanced locks and digital technologies to better control who comes into schools

  • 45 locks have been upgraded across the district.
  • An additional 300-325 locks will be installed by April.
  • Front entrance of every school is being upgraded with digital access as needed.
  • In schools with multiple buildings, digital entry access controls on every major building will be in place at all schools.

Active survival training

  • Dedicated active survival trainer hired October 22, 2018.
  • 15 schools have completed training.
  • 26 schools are scheduled for training, others being scheduled.
  • 5 key staff groups trained.

Faster and more frequent crisis communications and social media monitoring

  • More frequent and faster crisis communications to families and community.
  • Dedicated crisis response director being hired.
  • Deeper social media monitoring and partnership with law enforcement.
  • Safety town halls beginning in early February.

Increased support for student mental health

  • School safety experts say mental health support is critical.
  • 60 counselors added this year, more investments to be requested.
  • Mental health programs added and planned.

Fencing and gates to control campus access

  • Repairs and/or upgrades completed at 13 schools identified as most in need.
  • Work ongoing through end of school year.

[RELATED: CMPD: 3 arrested in connection to social media threat, gun at Olympic High]

Channel 9 will continue to push for more information from the district when these changes will be implemented and how they will work.


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