LUMBERTON, NC (WBTW) – Robeson County administrators say the district is on its way to becoming safer this school year thanks to a $700,000 grant approved by The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Center for Safer Schools.

Approval for Robeson County to participate in the NC School Safety Grant Program will help enhance building safety with new technology, training, and mental health support across 36 public schools in the district, according to officials.

From high school down to elementary school, students experience school threats at early grade levels across our nation. Robeson County school administrators have decided on four tactics they will allocate the grant funding towards to best benefit student’s safety and success:

  • School Resource Officers $166,665.00
  • School Safety Equipment $175,000
  • Students in Crisis Services $215,000
  • School Safety Training $141,129.00

A research study was done by the Statista Research Department to show the number of school shootings each year in the United States from 1970 to 2019. The report shows 2018 and 2019 experienced the most school shootings. 2018 had the highest number reporting 116, and as of December 2019, there were 110 shootings.

Source: Statista Research Department

Robeson County officials plan to take extra measures to make students feel safe while on school property. By providing mental health resources, the district’s hope is that it will positively impact their academic success.

“Mainly we see what’s happening nationally in K12 education with tragedies in Florida and Connecticut, we see that and want to take every measure we can to prevent that from happening in Robeson County,” Gordon Burnette, Robeson County spokesperson tells News13.

A behavioral specialist in Robeson County says teachers and administration are often first responders in a student’s mental health situation.

“We are the one who has those first interactions with students, we spend so much of our time with them that we notice those subtle changes in behavior that are a key or clue that there is an issue or concern,” a behavioral specialist for Robeson County and licensed mental health therapist, Rikki Bullard, said.

The district’s plan to use the safety grant is to enhance protection for Robeson County students both physically and mentally. New safety additions will include locked entryways, school safety training, and mental health services.

“You can see it every day in K12 settings that mental health has been an increasing problem and an increasing need within the school system,” Burnette said.

Medical experts say one in every five students suffer from a mental health crisis. If accurate, two to three thousand Robeson County students would benefit from these new resources.

“I always tell students it’s not about success for the school year, it’s about their success in life and I think in order to help them with that we have to help them with that we have to look at everything they may encompass in life whether it’s academically, psychologically, mentally, and physically,” Bullard said.

District officials say these safety funds go beyond providing protection. The grant also improves student’s chances for success.

“We are in a poverty-stricken area and a very high crime area… I think these measures are really going to improve the academic success of our students, I think ensuring the safety of our students is going to help their mental well being as well as long-term how successful they will be down the road,” Burnette said.

The grant will fund the remainder of this academic year and increase for the 2020-2021 school year.