All Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools principals shared messages of support and reassurance Wednesday in the aftermath of Tuesday’s elementary school shooting in Texas that killed 19 children and two adults.
An email went out in various stages throughout the morning detailing a response plan, which includes school staff prioritizing emotional needs of students.
“The heartbreaking tragedy that occurred in Texas is unfathomable and difficult to comprehend,” Community House Middle School Principal Brian Slattery wrote in his message. “Our most important role in the next few days is to support our students and ensure their emotional well-being.”
Two days before the start of summer break, an 18-year-old man opened fire at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, killing 19 students and two teachers, the Associated Press reported.
In the first three months of the current school year, CMS surpassed its 10-year high for the number of guns on campuses. By the Charlotte Observer’s and CMS count, 28 guns have been found on district campuses to date. Since January, five guns have been found on campuses.
Slattery told parents teachers will pull students aside to ask what they’re feeling about what they know if they mention the situation in Texas. He said teachers and staff will affirm students’ feelings as a natural response and let them know that educators understand if they are scared, sad, mad, anxious or have other emotions.
“We will reassure them that they are safe and remind them of the many safety measures we have in place: secured classrooms, screening adults/visitors before entering campus and requiring a sign-in and a badge, adults monitoring hallways, police officers and security associates on campus or nearby,” Slattery wrote.
Slattery said resources were on the school website for talking with children about violence and responding to tragedy in the news.
“We are here to support your children and take safety very seriously,” Slattery said. “Please be assured students will be monitored and nurtured, as needed, during this difficult time.”
Extra security measures
Eve White, interim assistant superintendent of communications, said law enforcement agencies in Mecklenburg County deployed officers Wednesday to support and monitor the elementary schools.
“We have the extra support across the district because we know the fear and anxiety that’s out there,” White said. CMPD also posted that they will be increasing patrols around elementary schools.
New security measures implemented
In the first three months of the current school year, Charlotte-Mecklenburg surpassed its previous 10-year high for the amount of guns on campuses, but the number has dropped during the second semester to five.
During the second half of the school year, the district has installed body scanning equipment to screen students for guns and weapons began being installed in high schools across the district.
In January, CMS also began training on its “Say Something” Anonymous Reporting System for grades 6-12. It launched in all of the district’s middle, high and K-8 schools. The program is designed to help prevent violence in schools, homes and communities by educating students and adults on how to recognize warning signs and act immediately by telling a trusted adult or submitting an anonymous tip.
During the first month for the app, officials received 500 tips from middle and high school students.
The district in the spring also began hiring 53 campus security associates. According to the 2022-23 budget proposal the board approved in April, $700,000 is earmarked for additional resource officers and contract increases.
CMS board members weigh in
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting, Elyse Dashew, chair of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ Board of Education, opened the meeting Tuesday with a moment of silence for the victims of the Texas school shooting.
“While we were in closed session, there was a terrible school shooting in Texas, at an elementary school,” Dashew said. “It’s on my heart. We should take a few seconds here for a moment of silence before we proceed with the meeting.”
After the moment of silence, Dashew said: “Prayers for our safety.”
Margaret Marshall told the Observer late Tuesday night it’s important for decision-makers to consider the accessibility of guns by people “who shouldn’t have them.”
“We are all just sick of this and heartbroken for the students, family and community affected,” Marshall said. “But we are all affected because parents everywhere are thinking about horrors they shouldn’t have to think about.”