Two from Johnston on school safety task force

ajames@newsobserver.comNovember 18, 2013 

— Gov. Pat McCrory named two Johnston County residents to the school safety task force he announced last week.

Donna White is a member of the Johnston County Board of Education. Luke Stancil is a junior at Corinth Holders High School.

The task force, made up of school leaders, teachers, psychologists and students from across the state, will advise the legislature on how to improve school safety.

White is serving her third term on the school board. Last year, she was part of a committee of parents, teachers and school leaders who met to discuss how to keep schools safe after the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting.

She plans to bring ideas from those meetings to the task force and wants to learn best practices from other school systems.

For her part, White would like to have more cameras in schools and someone monitoring those cameras. “We need to have an active surveillance at all times,” she said.

Johnston schools have cameras, but because no one is monitoring them in real time, they’re more useful for looking back at an incident. One idea is to recruit volunteers, perhaps retirees, to watch the cameras in two-hour shifts. The volunteers would report any unusual activity to the school resource officer or principal, or call for help.

“I don’t like the idea of having ‘Big Brother’ looking in, but with the world we live in today, I don’t think there can be too many cameras,” White said.

Johnston schools have ratcheted up their safety measures in the past year. Among other things, schools are now required to have emergency drills once a quarter.

White said she feels Johnston schools are among the safest in the state. “We’re in a county that’s been growing fast, so we’ve got resources other counties that haven’t been growing aren’t able to get,” she said.

In Johnston, every high school and most middle schools have a resource officer. School buses have GPS tracking devices.

“We can pinpoint a bus if it were hijacked or students were in danger on it,” White said.

A student’s perspective

At Corinth Holders, Stancil is vice president of the student body. He’s been part of the Johnston County Teen Drivers Association, which spreads awareness about teen-driving fatalities and how to prevent them.

Stancil said he’d like to see the task force address teen-driving safety as well school safety. “Traffic fatalities are one of the leading causes of death in our county,” he said.

Stancil has noticed the stepped-up safety measures in the schools, including the quarterly emergency drills. He wants to see more school resource officers, and he’d like for guidance counselors to have closer relationships with students.

“I want to have students write recommendations with their ideas so I can take those to the task force,” Stancil added.

The task force will meet quarterly, and both Stancil and White will serve for two years.

 

James: 919-553-7234

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