RSS board approves metal detector wands, bag restrictions at future athletic events

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, January 4, 2022

SALISBURY — Rowan-Salisbury Schools will add security screening measures to athletic events in response to a shooting last week.

All of the district’s athletic events will now use metal detecting wands at the door to screen attendees. The changes will also bar all backpacks and large bags from events. Diaper and medical bags will be allowed and subject to screening. Additionally, attendees’ personal items will be subject to search.

The bag rule does not apply to athletes.

The shooting during the Sam Moir Christmas Classic injured two boys from Davie County and prompted the Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education to call a meeting to discuss additional safety measures. The tournament, held at Catawba College’s gymnasium, had no security screening at the door.

RSS Chief Student Services Officer April Kuhn said the event was traumatic for students and staff. The district has support staff at several high school and middle school campuses for those who need it. The support staff include counselors and intervention specialists who can share information about local mental health providers and resources with parents on how to discuss traumatic experiences with children.

The district is following its crisis support protocol. Staff can also access the district’s employee assistance program.

The tournament shooting resulted in the cancellation or relocation of all home athletic events this week in order to get security measures in place. The district expects to discuss more school safety actions during upcoming meetings.

“This is simply the first step of a large process,” board member Travis Allen said.

Rowan-Salisbury Schools Superintendent Tony Watlington concurred, noting the recommendations are for the immediate term to provide more security while the district looks at more permanent options.

“We’re looking at the options of working with local law enforcement and potentially working with an external provider to help us with that metal detection, wanding, etc., until we can get metal detectors,” Watlington said.

Watlington said RSS administration will also develop a community safety task force to dig into how the district helps young people make better choices. The goal will be to improve safety and the climate in local schools.

“We’re going to be working directly with parents and community supporters and community agencies that have an interest in these kind of things,” Watlington said.

School board chairman Dean Hunter said the district wants to be exhaustive in its approach to school safety, and he reiterated RSS has no tolerance for incidents like the shooting.

“There is no room for what we’ve experienced in the last week in our school system,” Hunter said.

Hunter said the burden is on the school board and RSS administration to implement and follow its own procedures to hold students accountable.

“This is not something that parents and grandparents should have to deal with,” Hunter said.

Board member Lynn Marsh said her grandson was playing in the tournament and reassured parents the district is taking the issue seriously.

The board spent more than two hours in closed session discussing the confidential points of the issue. Member Brian Hightower said it was a good discussion that got to the heart of some of the issues facing the district.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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