Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect corrections to the number of public schools in Cumberland County and George Hall's name. CityView apologizes for these errors.
By the end of March, all 86 public schools in Cumberland County are on track to have threat assessment teams, a requirement set by the N.C. General Assembly last year, school officials said Thursday.
According to the law, which passed on July 7, a threat assessment team will meet when “threatening behavior has been communicated and when a student has engaged in threatening behavior that warrants further evaluation.”
The law defines threatening behavior as “any communication or action that indicates that an individual may pose a danger to the safety or well-being of school staff or students through acts of violence or other behaviors that would cause harm to self or others.”
The threat assessment teams must include, when possible, at least one school psychologist, a staff member with experience working with students with special needs and a staff member with experience working with disabled students, the law states. Licensed mental health professionals may participate if no school psychologists are available.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for gun violence awareness and prevention in the United States, nine other states also require threat assessment teams in schools — Washington, Rhode Island, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, Texas and Florida.
George Hall, Cumberland County Schools’ director of safety and security, told CityView that training for the teams began in December, with another training class slated for March 28.
“[By] then, all of our schools will have been trained, and some of them [have] probably already implemented a team,” he said.
Hall said the size of the threat assessment teams will differ depending on the circumstances.
“It would vary from incident to incident,” he said. “For instance, you may need law enforcement to sit in on one, but not another one. You may need a counselor to sit in on one, but not another one.”
The necessitation of a team meeting does not inherently imply an actual threat, Hall said.
“The teams actually are for determining if somebody may be a threat to themselves or a threat to others, or if maybe they were just having a bad day that day and don’t need anything,” he said. “Just because somebody mentions threat assessment does not mean that there was an actual threat.”
In addition to outlining the mandatory participants in each threat assessment team, the law also requires that:
The law will go into effect at the start of the 2024-25 school year. The school system has yet to determine how much of its budget will fund the teams, according to Hall.
Hall said he wants the community to know that threat assessment teams aren’t meant to be punitive.
“The basic premise of this whole thing is to help the kids, not try to get them in trouble or anything like that,” he said. “That’s not what these teams are about. It’s about protecting the kids and getting the kids the right resources that they need.”
Reporter Lexi Solomon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-423-6500.
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