The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)


August 26, 2013

Sheriff, principal discuss safety as school year begins in Stanly County

Monday, August 26, 2013 — The school shooting incident in Georgia last week could not have come at a worse time.

With Stanly County students within hours of starting a new school year, it brings back all the fears that came with the news of the children who were killed by a shooter in Newtown, Conn. last year.

Stanly County Sheriff Rick Burris said local law enforcement and the school system are as prepared as they can be, should the unthinkable happen here.

“As hard as it is to think about, you can’t say it won’t happen here,” Burris said.

“I don’t think anybody is ever really totally ready for an active shooter or an incident like that.”

He said the county has the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team, which has trained for situations such as school shootings.

“We do train at least once evey month in different locations, and they have trained in the schools, but every situation is different,” Burris said.

He said floor plans of all the schools are kept by law enforcement officials in order to be instantly familiar with all the school plant layouts.

“We are as prepared as we can be,” Burris said.

“You never know what, when or where someone may have something on their mind.”

“The thing I worry about is it is known and posted there are no weapons allowed in the schools, and that makes it seem they are not protected in anyway. You’re lucky if there is a school resource officer (SRO) and that would be the first line of defense.”

He said he was glad to see the school board authorize the funding for a SRO at one of the middle schools for this school year.

“I think the plan is to implement one a year until all the middle schools have one,” Burris said.

“I think that’s a good thing.”

Burris said he wants the schools to be active participants in selecting SRO officers.

“It takes a special person who can go in there and earn the trust of the students,” he said.

“They also have to have a passion for that job because it’s not just about walking up and down the halls. You’ve got to be on your guard at all times.”

He said there are some security changes he would like to see established within the schools that he feels could deter any potential trouble.

“There has been talk about training teachers to carry concealed weapons,” Burris said.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to that as long as they were certified to use and carry the firearms.”

The sheriff emphasized that any educator who was authorized to carry a weapon onto school property should have to face and pass all the training that is required of any law enforcement officer, bringing them to a higher standard.

“You have a lot of teachers who are gun enthusiasts and already have firearm knowledge and I think, under controlled circumstances, that would be a good deterrent,” Burris said.

He said there is good communications established between law enforcement and the school system.

Central Elementary School Principal Melissa Smith said taking care of the children is the main priority, but it takes teamwork with the community.

The school is implementing a new car rider line policy where signs are posted showing cars they need to stop at a certain point before moving toward the school at 7:45 a.m., when the staff has fully reported to duty.

The same will be true for the end of school at 2:30 p.m.

“I think all of the families in the community are bringing their children to us. They are entrusting us with the care and safety of their children,” Smith said.

“I want to make sure I don’t just give them back the way they gave them to me. I want to give them back even better and safety is key. If they don’t feel safe and they don’t feel we’re protecting them, they will not perform.

“But we need the support of the community so we won’t have to face instances like those we have seen in other parts of our world.

“We are trying to be pro-active and cover all aspects of safety.”

To submit story ideas, contact Brian Graves at or (704) 982-2121.

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