Officials examine school safety after shooting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 12, 2014

As a 16-year-old Salisbury High student recovers from a gunshot wound, school and district administrators are wrestling with these questions: How was someone with a gun able to walk freely in the school’s gym? And how can they make sure it doesn’t happen again?

The school system just finished security assessments of all its schools and is beginning to make suggested improvements. Rowan-Salisbury School System Dr. Lynn Moody said she doesn’t want to “put a Band-aid” on the Salisbury High issue, but the district is taking steps to make sure students feel safe right now.

As to how it happened Monday, Moody said it was simply a matter of bad timing.

“There was a lot of movement” around Salisbury High School’s campus Monday afternoon, especially near the gym, according to Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody.

It was at the end of the school day, students were dismissing and a junior varsity basketball game was getting ready to begin, she explained.

“The general public can attend any of our games,” Moody said.

Although Rowan-Salisbury Schools require adult supervision at athletic events and attendees are funneled through one location as they purchase tickets, there isn’t much security or control surrounding the school’s campus or athletic facilities, especially around dismissal.

It was during that chaotic time that Shaleek Williams was shot as he was trying to break up a fight.

Tuesday, Salisbury High School was at an elevated level of caution.

“The safety of the students is first and foremost,” said the school system’s Public Information Officer Rita Foil.

The school was placed on a precautionary code yellow lockdown, allowing staff and law enforcement officers to more closely monitor who’s in the building and on the premises.

During a code yellow lockdown, classes continue as usual, but students don’t leave the building and all outside activities are canceled. Parents can enter the school building, but doors remained locked after they enter or leave the building.

Moody said that law enforcement officers were stationed at various points across campus and “a lot of additional safety features” were put into place.

Whether or not the school will remain on a code yellow lockdown after upcoming weather-related school cancellations has yet to be determined, but school officials say the decision will be made on a day-by-day basis.

Salisbury High School will “follow the lead of law enforcement,” Foil said.

Beyond temporarily heightened security, administrators and the school haven’t made any permanent decisions based on Monday’s events.

After 20 children and six adult staff members were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Dec. 2012, the school system contracted Safe Haven, a non-profit campus safety organization, to do an exhaustive safety audit.

“We had that in the works long before this happened,” Moody said.

Moody and Chairman of the Board Dr. Richard Miller both stressed that the board wanted to follow and complete the strategic plan that is already in place.

“We’re trying not to have a knee-jerk reaction,” said Chairman of the Board of Education Dr. Richard Miller.

“[We] don’t want to get away from the best interest of the health and safety of the kids,” he added.

At Monday night’s meeting, the board approved to spend $500,000 out of the school system’s capital fund balance for visitor management systems, upgrading entrances to meet the standards put forth by new legislation.

Some Rowan-Salisbury parents are worried about their children’s safety.

Jeff Vaughn, who has two children at Faith Elementary and one at Carson High, said that the shooting brought back memories of the attack at Sandy Hook, except this time, it was local.

“I don’t think Rowan County schools, or some of them, are equipped to help and protect,” he said. “In general, they really need to look at securing these kids in a much better way.”