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CoastLine: School Safety In The Age Of School Shootings

Samuel King, Jr. / U.S. Air Force
Members of the Crestview Police Department SWAT team move past the bodies of simulated victims to clear the Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal building during an active shooter exercise on Eglin Air Force Base, FL.

Active shooter situations are, by nature, unpredictable and evolve quickly. That’s the first observation officials with The Department of Homeland Security make before offering what tools and resources they have.  In many cases, DHS officials say, there is no pattern or method to the selection of victims by an active shooter.

According to the New York Times, on average, there have been about five school shootings each month since 2014.  That includes episodes not classified as mass shootings.  The year of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado, just 19% of schools said they used security cameras to monitor buildings. By 2016, 83% had installed cameras at school, according to USA Today

New Hanover County Commissioners convened a Roundtable on School Safety on Thursday.  The purpose of the roundtable, according to a press release:  to discuss the current plan for school safety, how the county’s mental health resources are being integrated across schools, and what opportunities for improvement or policy gaps exist that need to be addressed.

Because this larger, public conversation around school safety and gun violence is evolving in many communities, WHQR is producing a series of discussions on the issue of gun safety and gun violence over the coming weeks in a commitment to facilitate a full public discussion addressing not just school safety – but other facets of the gun conversation.

This first installment in the series is specifically focused on school safety and security.  In future discussions, we hope to include parents, students, local leaders, and a diverse cross-section of the community. 

This exploration we undertake in segments.  First, we hear from the Wilmington Police Department about a training program, offered at no cost by WPD, to facilities that are not public schools – such as day care facilities, churches, and private schools.  Public Information Officer Linda Thompson was scheduled to join us, but instead she attended the funeral of Retired Captain George Perkins after his passing over the weekend.  


Jennifer Dandron, Communications Specialist, Wilmington Police Department

Rick Holliday, Deputy Superintendent, New Hanover County Public Schools

Janna Robertson, Professor, Department of Instructional Technology, Foundations, and Secondary Education, Watson College of Education, University of North Carolina Wilmington


The Wilmington Police Department will sponsor a Security Seminar open to any schools, day cares or child care centers Tuesday, March 6. 

WPD officials will present the Department of Homeland Security's Active Shooter Safety Guidelines, building security information and developing safety protocols. 

The event will be from 1-4 p.m. at the Lumina Theater on UNCW’s campus, 615 Hamilton Drive. 

Registration is limited to two people per day care facility. There are 300 spots available. 

 For more information, contact Letecia Holiday at 910-343-3955 or email wpdpublicaffairs@wilmingtonnc.gov. 

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.
Rachel is a graduate of UNCW's Master of Public Administration program, specializing in Urban and Regional Policy and Planning. She also received a Master of Education and two Bachelor of Arts degrees in Political Science and French Language & Literature from NC State University. She served as WHQR's News Fellow from 2017-2019. Contact her by email: rkeith@whqr.org or on Twitter @RachelKWHQR