School shootings have become all too common, but following the recent massacre at a Florida high school, students are becoming more vocal on how government can make changes to provide better safety.
Forbush English teacher Laura Papsun was so impressed with the poise and composure of students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that it prompted her to create a project for her own students to give them a forum to share ideas on the important topic of school safety.
“I have always had students that were equally intelligent and eloquent in my classes. We are so lucky to have such great students in Yadkin County. They have great ideas on ways to improve our world. They do not, however, always have a forum to share those ideas. All I’ve done is try to give them such a forum and a means to share these ideas with policymakers.”
Students were divided into groups and each group researched a different idea on how to improve the safety and security of their school. They then wrote letters to the Yadkin County Commissioners, School Superintendent, state and national legislators.
Last week, Yadkin County Commissioners Kevin Austin and David Moxley spent the day in class with those students to learn more about their projects and give them some insight on how county governments run.
“We were really intrigued by the letter we received and interested in opening dialogue,” Austin told the students.
Among their proposals were to increase the number of school resource officers, install metal detectors and bullet-proof doors as well as implement a policy requiring students to carry clear backpacks.
“Further thoughts from the class will help us as we work to do everything we can in the area of school safety,” Austin said.
The commissioners explained the complicated budgeting process that goes into funding all of the county expenses.
“There’s a lot of planning and thought that has to go into these type endeavors before you get the finished product of having more SROs on campus,” Austin said.
He added that they weren’t meeting with students just to “shoot down ideas” but rather to open up dialogue and explain what goes into the decision-making process.
“Unfortunately all decisions end up being comprise which nobody likes to hear,” Austin said. “We’re faced every day with hard choices, not just on this issue but on all the other issues.”
Moxley explained to the class that the sprawling nature of the Forbush and Starmount campus buildings, which can make security an issue, were built at a time when school shootings were unheard of.
“These schools’ main buildings were built in the mid-60s at a time that probably the worst thing anyone was thinking about was the school building may burn,” he said. “That’s why they built the campus the way it was with these different buildings. It seemed like a good idea at the time. As time went on, instead of that, now were thinking more about student safety as a prime concern with all these different buildings with front doors, back doors, and side doors now really presents a challenge to add to the safety of these students since there are so many doors that people could come in.”
The commissioners thanked the students for their letter and for the ideas and said that likely bits and pieces of their projects would be looked at to improve the security of local school campuses.
Students also had a chance to ask questions of the commissioners. One student asked if fundraising would be an option to help fund some of the projects to improve school security. Austin said that could definitely be an option. He said he also hoped that future funding could come by way of state or federal grants.
Yadkin County Schools Superintendent Dr. Todd Martin also received letters from students which he said were “well organized, respectful, and professional.”
“It was evident the students who wrote to me put a great deal of thought into their letters,” Martin said. “I believe the students had a valuable learning experience about how to reach out and express their beliefs.”
Papsun said that Martin offered to meet with individual students to further discuss their ideas. Forbush Principal Boomer Kennedy also met with several of the groups on their projects.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.