N.C. House Speaker Tim Moore this week announced a new bipartisan committee that will study ways to make our state’s schools safer. Forty-one legislators will serve on the panel, convened as a response to the tragic mass shooting that killed 17 people in Florida.
Somehow, this became the headline in North Carolina’s two largest newspapers: “NC lawmakers may consider arming teachers following school shootings.”
That’s based on this quote from Moore, as reported by The News & Observer, presumably after being asked about whether the panel will look at allowing teachers to carry guns.
“It’s one of those things where I don’t want to come in saying we’re going to do these particular things. The process of this committee is to truly get that input. We want to hear what the local school districts want to do on that. What does law enforcement believe is appropriate on that because right now it’s the law enforcement officers who are stationed in schools right now who are the front line of defense if something like this would happen.”
Moore gave a similar noncommital answer when asked the question on the HLN network Wednesday afternoon. He told host S.E. Cupp that at this stage, they want to gather data and input from teachers, administrators and law enforcement.
I guess you could make the argument that the headline is technically true1. “May” is one of those weasel words that journalists use to cover themselves as they make assertions2. But the reality is that this is manufactured news.
A more accurate way to spin it would be to say that state lawmakers “sidestep questions”3 on arming teachers or “won’t rule out”4 arming teachers.
A more useful thing for N.C. journalists to do would be to actually examine what’s in play. So I’ll do that here.
Here’s what is actually likely to happen.
In the interview with HLN, Moore said the House panel will focus on “common-sense, simple things” to make schools safer. He mentioned several steps in particular, mostly around trying to make sure people who aren’t supposed to have access to campus don’t get into schools.
Moore said the state would borrow techniques from the corporate world to make this happen.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools provides a good example of how this is already being done in some areas. After the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, CMS and Mecklenburg County spent $19 million to upgrade security at its campuses.
They installed “controlled access” points at front doors, requiring visitors to buzz in and giving the front office cameras to see who’s there. Visitors then have to check in with their ID using specialized software that also runs a background check. This is somewhat similar to what big companies in Charlotte do to get access to the bank towers.
Wake County is now doing the same thing. Using the typical formula that CMS is 10 percent of the state’s public school system, that would put the cost at around $190 million. That’s a big investment. Likely some local and federal money would come into play.
Moore also said the state might look at expanding the number of police officers that public schools have on campus.
The state pays for many high school and middle schools to have police officers — your traditional school resource officers. Some elementary schools have them as well, but not that many.
A 2015 survey from the state found that the application is inconsistent. Some officers even patrol 5 or more schools.
This panel of state House members could actually be really useful.
School safety has only occasionally been comprehensively studied.5
If I had to guess, I’d expect the state legislature to roll out a bill that expands a CMS-style controlled access program statewide and allocates more money to school resource officers while standardizing their responsibilities.
I’d also expect the State Board of Education to come up with a standardized policy on school security; there doesn’t appear to be one currently.
Will they arm teachers? I just don’t see that happening — or even being seriously considered.