N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory was certainly right to appoint a task force to make recommendations on keeping our schoolchildren safe. In the aftermath of Sandy Hook – and Columbine before that – safety is foremost in the minds of parents.
We’re pleased, too, that the task force includes two Johnston County residents: school board member Donna White and Luke Stancil, a junior at Corinth Holders High School. Clearly, Mrs. White has already given the matter some thought: She wants to find volunteers, perhaps retirees, to man the cameras that Johnston keeps trained on its schools. For his part, Stancil wants the task force to think also about teen driving safety; traffic accidents have claimed too many Johnston County young people.
But as the task force sets about its work, it’s important to remember that school remains one of the safest places we can send our children. Here are some numbers from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction:
Statewide in 2011-12, the number of acts of crime and violence in grades K-12 fell by 4.3 percent from the year before, to 11,161, the lowest number since 2008-09. The number of acts per 1,000 students was 7.63, down from 8.03 the year before. In grades 9-12 statewide, the number of acts of crime and violence fell to 5,908 in 2011-12 from 6,132 in 2010-11. The number of acts per 1,000 students fell to 14.15 from 14.6.
The Johnston numbers were comparable, though slightly higher.
It’s important to note also that North Carolina’s public schools haven’t been sitting on their hands when it comes to student safety. All take steps daily to protect students, and all have plans in place to respond to the likes of Sandy Hook. Corinth Holders High School was recently the site of one such response drill.
This is not to say the task force has no work to do. In particular, we think the task force should look at the role bullying plays in school violence. And it should look closely at how schools can promote and monitor mental health.
But day in and day out, parents can send their children to school knowing they will be safe there. The numbers tell us so.