RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As state data shows crime and violence increasing at schools across the state, students in possession of a controlled substance in violation of law for a minor is among the biggest issue challenging schools.

At Wednesday’s North Carolina Board of Education meeting, Karen Fairly, director of the Center for Safer Schools said schools across the state reported a total of 13,193 acts of crime and violence for the 2022-2023 school year. The rate for these incidents was 8.77 per 1,000 students, higher than the previous year’s rate of 7.51 per 1,00 students.

CSS’s 2022-2023 Consolidated Data Report states the schools saw a 35.7% increase last year of students found in possession of a controlled substance in violation of law.

“We recognize that what goes on in our communities comes into our schools and vice versa,” Fairley told board members.

NCDPI’s Office for Data and Analytics says a possible cause for the increase in controlled substances is related to an increased effort to report underage vaping on campus as either “possession of a controlled substance” or “possession of tobacco.”

While the number students found in possession of a weapon (not a firearm) decreased in the last year, DPI has seen an a 54.5% increase in these incidents over the last five years.

Those data points may not paint the entire picture. Fairley explained the CSS that increase of incidents could be influenced by the increased number of tools available to track these incidents.

“They will increase because now you’re looking for them. When a school district uses preventative measures such as school resource officers, metal detectors and cameras, it could make behaviors more apparent,” said Fairly as she presented those numbers to the state Board of Education.

According to the DPI data, students were in possession of 199 firearms last year, about a 23% increase from the year before.

CBS 17 asked Fairley if a district that is seeing an uptick, but doesn’t already have a weapons detection system in place, should get one.

“So what we do at the center is that we understand that every school district knows what’s best for their area, and so we let them make that determination,” she said.

In Wake County, the 18 guns last school year is more than twice as many as the year before, according to the data.

Those numbers concern Wake County parent Emily Johnson.

“I’m mad, I’m mad that every day I have to drop my kid off at school and wonder is that the last time I’m ever going to get a hug from him,” Johnson said.

She’s part of a group of parents pushing for metal detectors in Wake County schools.

“They’re not perfect, but nothing’s going to be a perfect solution, but it gives us a little extra added protection to catch one or two weapons,” Johnson said. “That’s all it would take to make it a success.”

CBS 17 reached out to the Wake County Public School System to see if it’s looking at metal detectors. A spokesperson for the district shared the following statement:

We are very concerned about the increase of firearms on school campuses. 

The best means to keep schools safe is to maintain healthy, trusting relationships between adults and children and through building resiliency within the school community to help students cope with challenging situations.

The district employs counselors, social workers, and school psychologists at every school, PreK-12. These student services team members are trained and prepared to support the day-to-day social-emotional needs of students. 

In addition, our Board of Education has taken proactive measures to support and enhance our safety measures by authorizing an independent security assessment of every school and all of our administrative facilities.  You can view the assessment here.

We are currently working on implementing the security enhancements recommended. While metal detectors were not included among these recommendations, we continue to evaluate the use of metal detectors on our campus. 

We also continue to partner with our community to ensure that firearms are properly stored in a manner that children cannot access them.

  • We urge all community members to secure all firearms in their homes. 
  • We urge our families to always keep their guns locked in a gun safe that cannot be easily broken into or taken away.
  • We ask our parents to encourage their children to keep schools safe by sharing safety concerns using our Tip Line (919) 856-1911 or by sharing concerns with a trusted adult. 

In the 2022-2023 school year, Fairley said 146 schools requested cameras and 37 requested metal detectors. This also comes as more districts install artificial intelligence-based weapons detection systems.

CBS 17 asked Fairley which schools made those requests, but she said she can’t say for security reasons.

Aside from drugs and weapons, CSS’s report shows assault on school personnel and possession of an alcoholic beverage were the third, and forth most reported incidents of crime and violence.

Reportable Acts of Crime Number of acts in 2018-2019 Number of acts in 2021-2022 Number of acts in 2022-2023
Possession of a Controlled Substance in Violation of Law
(For a Minor)
4,604 5,250 7,125
Possession of a Weapon (not a Firearm) 2,053 3,292 3,171
Assault on School Personnel 1,495 1,374 1,482
Possession of Alcoholic Beverage 885 748 720
Possession of a Firearm or Powerful Explosive 124 161 199
Assault Resulting in Serious Injury 75 64 134
Center for Safer Schools

“Initiatives such as Educating Kids About Gun and Gang Violence (EKG2) and the Say Something Anonymous Reporting System play a critical role in keeping schools safer,” Fairley said. “While these programs and others carried out through the Center can play an important proactive role in both training and reporting, we know that real progress starts in communities with conversations between school districts, community leaders, and local law enforcement.”

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Credit: Original content published here.

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