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School safety is paramount.

Creating and keeping safe schools is top of mind for every parent, every student, and every administrator. As a community and as a School Board, we must continue to work every day to keep our campuses free from gun violence and also work to support ALL of our students and staff with the challenges we face in today’s society.

We can all agree that school safety is of utmost importance and that students, teachers, and staff MUST feel safe in order to maximize learning, growth, and achievement. During my five years on the Fayetteville School Board, school safety has been a consistent focus and top priority of the Board and everyone associated with Fayetteville Public Schools. It will remain a consistent focus of the Board. It will remain a consistent top focus for me, as well.

As part of our most recent round of bond-financed facility upgrades, we invested more than ten million dollars on safety-specific improvements across all of our facilities. These investments included access controls, security cameras, and improved visibility so that office staff can monitor building entrances, as well as enhancements to doors, windows, locks, and lighting. These improvements were recommended by a third-party consultant, SafePlans, as well as a School Safety & Security Task Force established in 2018.

As a Board, we originally formed a separate Mental Health Task Force at the same time the School Safety & Security Task Force was formed. We ultimately realized that these issues are intertwined, so we combined the two into a single Joint Safety and Mental Health Task Force, which has informed our ongoing work around trauma-informed practices and social and emotional learning.

In addition to facility improvements, we’ve added an administrative position focused on safety, student health, and physical education. We’ve also adopted technology that ensures every building has an emergency response plan appropriate for its facility. The school board has always unanimously supported adding School Resource Officers, and we continue to work towards the goal recommended by SafePlans, our Safety & Security Task Force, and our administration - an SRO in every school building.

The goal is for ALL of our students and staff to be AND feel safe at school.

While SROs can play an important role in keeping students safe, there are also concerns that their presence can lead to negative consequences, particularly for students of color, who may be disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system. I believe the Fayetteville School Board must continue to research and review every single way to keep our schools safe. We must also monitor, analyze, and report on our school climate, discipline tactics, and arrest data on an ongoing basis and work to eliminate known disparities.

I’ll say it again - we need to do everything we can to protect our kids from the possibility of serious violence. We are actively implementing alternative approaches, such as restorative justice, trained counselors, social workers, and mental health professionals. By investing in positive behavior intervention and support programs and alternative discipline policies, schools can create a more supportive and inclusive environment that meets the needs of ALL students and prioritizes student well-being and success. I will continue supporting efforts to add social, emotional, and mental health resources for students and staff and to train staff on trauma-informed practices. Lastly, Fayetteville Public Schools partners with many community-based organizations that offer after-school activities and support services. Such programs can provide students with positive outlets for their energy and emotions, helping them to avoid risky or dangerous behaviors and feel more connected to their community.

Finally, I think it’s always important to acknowledge the root causes of problems. The root causes of gun violence that are within our control locally are poverty, bullying, and mental health. Let’s work every day to address those - as a school district and as a community.

As a community, we must advocate for state and federal legislation that makes it harder for weapons, particularly high-capacity automatic and semi-automatic weapons, to fall into dangerous hands. This is a shared responsibility that I know so many of us feel deeply. Sustained and committed action is required here, and I’m inspired by the work of our local Moms Demand Action chapter to advocate for evidence-based practices to keep our communities safe.

In my second term, I will continue to work with the full School Board to keep ALL our schools safe.

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