CMS using technology, communication to improve school safety

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – The discovery of guns on school campuses is a growing concern for parents and school districts.

In North Carolina, a 15-year-old died in November after another student stabbed him at Southeast Raleigh Magnet High School. There has been criticism of what Wake County schools are doing to keep students safe.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School district has also addressed college safety issues and invested millions to make schools safer. Leaders call safety concerns an urgent matter.

Every year, more and more guns are found on school campuses across the country. CMS also saw a spike at one point, but has been working to address the problem for the past year and a half.

In 2018, a student was shot and killed at Butler High School. In 2021, a student opened fire in the parking lot of West Charlotte High School.

“We had a firearms problem in 2021-2022, and we needed to find something concrete to address that problem,” CMS Chief Operating Officer Brian Schultz said. “We went from 31 firearms in the 2021-22 school year to seven firearms last year.”

Schultz has worked in the district for nearly a decade, with part of his work focusing on school security.

He, along with other school leaders, work with student advocates to create solutions.

“It’s very unfortunate that we have these circumstances around the world where students don’t feel safe, what I can say about CMS is that they are taking the necessary steps to make our students feel safe,” student quarterback Malachi Thompson said.

In response to recent safety lapses, CMS has spent millions to install metal detectors and monitoring systems in each high school. The district also hired additional staff and set up an anonymous tip line.

“It makes me feel happy when I walk into a building and see the tools we have at our disposal,” Schultz said. “More than the tools, the people. Our tools are only as good as our people teaching and wanting to keep students safe.”

Thompson has become a voice for the students, meeting with principal Dr. Crystal Hill throughout the school year to discuss serious topics.

“What I’ve loved about it over the last few years is making connections with people I never thought I’d make a connection with, like our mayor and governor,” he said. “It was a wonderful opportunity and it had its challenges.”

CMS said it has had success with its changes. Only two firearms have been found on campuses this year. Other areas of the country are paying attention. CMS officials said representatives from 30 other districts have visited in the past year to learn from their success.

“The part of this that’s important to me is that we help students in other districts feel safe, and that helps staff in other districts feel safe,” Schultz said.

Schultz said the Wake County Public School system was not one of the districts that reached out. Unlike CMS, Wake County Schools has not added metal detectors to all high school campuses.

Both Schultz and Thompson said they hope school leaders and parents in Wake County will come together to figure out how to make their schools safer.

Thompson said the CMS superintendent is hosting Zoom calls with student attorneys and listening to their feedback.

He said the feedback included students wanting extra security on campus.

“Coming to school and feeling safe in your environment, feeling safe in the classroom, feeling safe in the cafeteria, feeling safe in the gym, that’s one of those things that makes students want to brought back to school,” Thompson said.

Read also: Charlotte’s schools chief is speaking out about student safety weeks after refusing to answer questions

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