GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Threats to Guilford County School campuses along with other security issues have school officials searching for solutions, but they said building relationships between students and staff will be instrumental in solving the problem.
On Monday, two minors were charged after a stolen gun was found on the Northeast Guilford High School campus.
"Students made the report," said Mike Richey, the executive director of emergency management, school safety and security for GCS. "They found the right person, they didn’t put out a text to their friends and rumors on social media. They found a person of authority, told them what was going on and that person reacted exactly as they should."
A threat was also made to High Point Central High School Sunday and a juvenile was charged in that case. Richey said community members should continue to practice "see something, say something," but make sure they are saying something to the right person.
"For parents, please reach out to the school administrators not each other," said Richey. "Because that (rumor) then flies and it makes it a whole lot harder to investigate.”
According to Richey, relationships can help build trust between staff and students. Part of that relationship building, he said, is the "one card" system used to check-in students each day.
"So what’s happening is as a student checks in, there’s a staff member right there with them," said Richey, "and so every day is starting there with that hello, and every interaction with that one card is an opportunity to start building a relationship with the student and the staff."
But Richey also said his department needs to know what resources principals need as well.
"I’m almost calling it a listening tour," said Richey. "I’m walking around I’m really trying to get to know what the principals need to keep their campuses safe."
Richey said the district has not made any decisions on security changes like a clear or no bag policy.
"I am in favor of clear stadium bags, but students will find other ways to get around rules," said board of education member Khem Irby in an email to News 2. "I believe there is a certain excitement and attention that some students are looking for. We need to drill down in the communities where students live and support them with alternatives and opportunities."
Richey also believes the community plays an integral part in solving school safety issues.
"If we don’t ask the community what they think they need and we make assumptions as to what will solve the problem we will probably never solve the problem," said Richey.
Superintendent Dr. Sharon Contreras echoed Richey's thoughts in a statement Tuesday.
"We need more help from parents, community leaders and policymakers," said Contreras. "Guns are too easy for children to get and as we see in news reports, there are far too many in the hands of children in North Carolina. Crime rates are going up; this was true before the pandemic and is more true now. The fact that this trend is statewide should be cause for alarm. Schools reflect communities, and we need to heed the warning signs now. While we, as educators, can't solve this on our own, we stand ready to do our part."
GCS is working to partner with law enforcement and other community organizations.
“We have to ask the questions of each other: what will it take for us to be safe? It’s not coming from a position of knowing the answers, it’s coming from asking each other what those answers are," said Richey. "So having that dialogue with the community, having the conversations with the community with the law enforcement agencies, and all of us having that together, we might very well come up with this wonderful remedy for all this. We might not.”
Earlier this summer, the Guilford County Board of Education stepped up security after a slew of hate-filled emails, voicemails, and social media posts directed toward Dr. Conteras.
Greensboro Police Department spokesperson Ron Glenn said Wednesday the comments "did not rise to the level of criminal threats, so they did not actually investigate the comments."
News 2 has a voicemail line to hear from parents about what they would like to see in their child's school when it comes to school security. You can leave a message at 336-379-5604.