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School Safety a Top Priority Following Tennessee School Shooting

This article originally appeared on WITN News. To view the original article, click here.

NEW BERN, N.C. (WITN) – The deadly shooting at a Knoxville, Tennessee high school has left local school leaders reeling, putting an even bigger focus on keeping students and staff safe.

Nick Lucas is the Director of Safety and Security for Craven County Schools, and he says. At the same time, safety is always their number one concern, incidents like what happened in Tennessee reinforce the need to protect students and staff.

It weighs very heavily. No one likes to see that type of tragedy happen in our schools anywhere, and it’s heartbreaking to see that happen. It reinforces our need to be vigilant, said Lucas.

The school system has several safety protocols in place, including keeping all doors locked at all times. They also do quarterly training with school leaders to ensure that everyone knows what to do during a lockdown.

They also have ensured that there is only one entrance into a school for visitors. We have a visitor management system in place, raptor technology, so everyone that comes to a school has to check in, has to provide identification, and we have to know who they are before they come into the schools, explained Lucas.

Most schools within Craven County also have their School Resource Officer, and Lucas says they are working on filling the last few positions to make that a reality for every school.

SROs like Lt. Billie Mathes take their jobs very seriously. Lt. Mathes says their job isn’t just doing perimeter checks. It’s also about building relationships with students.

Its very important to have a good relationship with the students and the staff, so if there are any issues, we’re made aware of it, and the students are comfortable coming to us, said Lt. Mathes.

Lt. Mathes says those relationships can help bring any potential problems to light before anything ever happens but that it takes students being involved in their own safety and reporting when they see or hear something.

Thats something Lucas and Lt. Mathes says parents can encourage at home as well. The biggest thing is to have conversations with your children and remind them to be aware of whats going on. Environmental awareness is very important if they see something that doesn’t seem correct or if they hear something that doesn’t sound right, talk to a responsible adult, said Lucas.

Craven County Schools also works with Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit organization with an anonymous reporting website and phone app where students and staff can report things anonymously.