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Another School Shooting: NC Lawmakers Meet Today to Discuss Solutions

North Carolina House lawmakers meet in the first School Safety Committee meeting today, as the country's students continue to call for change. (VCU CNS/flickr)
North Carolina House lawmakers meet in the first School Safety Committee meeting today, as the country's students continue to call for change. (VCU CNS/flickr)
March 21, 2018

RALEIGH, N.C. — Just days before students and other activists participate in the March for Our Lives this Saturday, a shooting at a Maryland high school is fanning more flames of change. And today, the North Carolina state House is having the first meeting of its School Safety Committee.

Among the issues the committee is expected to discuss is the on-going shortage of school nurses and psychologists. Committee member Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union County, said it comes down to balancing needs with available resources.

"There will be those people that say we can't afford not to do it, and that's of course correct to an extent,” Horn said. “But we've got to do what we can do and address both the immediate and long-term needs of our school kids."

There are numerous instances in which school shooters demonstrated mental health problems prior to an attack. But there is concern about the state's resources when it comes to addressing these kinds of concerns.

A report released by the state Legislature earlier this month found there are 740 school psychologists in North Carolina that serve about 1.6 million children in the state's public schools.

The state Senate has yet to appoint a committee, but Sen. Joyce Krawiec, a republican representing Forsyth and Yadkin counties, said school health professionals are being spread thin at a time when they're needed most.

"If you've got a crisis in a school and a nurse is covering three or four schools, how on earth are we going to be able to make sure that she or he is able to be at the school where they're needed?" Krawiec asked. "So we definitely have needs there, and we've got to figure out how we can fix those problems."

A recent report from the state Legislature showed an increase in reports of nurses addressing mental health needs. Tina Gordon, CEO of the North Carolina Nurses Association, said increasingly, educators are tasked with addressing students' mental and physical health needs, when they were hired to educate them.

"It's really hard to have a complete picture of what's going on with their mental and their physical health if you're not there every day and you're sharing your time,” Gordon said. “The benefit of what the nurse or other health care providers can provide is really watered down."

Fewer than half of the state's school districts have one nurse for every 750 students, a ratio recommended by the National Association of School Nurses and the State Board of Education. NC Child and North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force are asking lawmakers to fund additional school nurses in the state.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC