Editorial: Good first steps for Rowan-Salisbury Schools

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 9, 2022

Rowan-Salisbury Schools implemented some commonsense security measures last week in the wake of the Sam Moir Christmas Classic shooting.

The school system canceled or moved home games elsewhere for a week. During a school board meeting on Tuesday, the district also decided to add people with metal detector wands to the front door of athletic events as well as ban backpacks and large bags from events, with exceptions for diaper and medical bags that will be searched.

During an update on Friday, Rowan-Salisbury Schools said it would contract with security firms to provide metal detector wands and that trained, paid school staff volunteers may be used as backups.

“Students or adults who engage in disruptive and unsafe behavior may be banned from athletic events for the remainder of the year,” the district said in a message posted online.

For any discomfort the security measures might create, they will go a long way toward making sure students, friends or parents aren’t entering basketball gyms with concealed weapons. While understandable for personal safety in many situations, guns should be kept in the hands of school resources officers and other trained professionals who attend athletic contests.

Also notable, going through a metal detector or security checkpoint isn’t uncommon today at sports contests, particularly professional sports. People who go to a Panthers game, for example, have to pass through a security checkpoint. The Charlotte Hornets require guests entering the arena to go through a metal detector. At airports and when attending other events, it’s common to go through security checkpoints, too.

The just-implemented measures are not the final steps RSS will take, said school board member Travis Allen. The district plans to talk about more school safety actions.

Superintendent Tony Watlington raised the likelihood of getting permanent metal detectors when he said, “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 detector wanding … until we can get metal detectors.”

In another step, Watlington said RSS will create a community safety task force to dig into how the district helps young people make better decisions. Ultimately, efforts like that will be the key to ensuring RSS students aren’t involved in shootings of any kind. The district also can continue to welcome pre-existing mentorship programs that have already served students well.

School board chairman Dean Hunter said it well last week when he said, “There is no room for what we’ve experienced the last week in our school system” and “this is not something that parents and grandparents should have to deal with.”

Because gun violence is a community issue rather than one limited to school children and their families, people should encourage other leaders to allocate new resources to the issue. There’s a lot of federal relief money floating around the community. Maybe some of that can go to relevant initiatives.

In cases where resources already exist, we should all work to connect people with programs that will improve the overall health of local families. Families First NC in Salisbury is one good resource. It offers parenting and various education programs to strengthen families and provide social-emotional development.