Schools to require clear backpacks in 2018-19

By: By Amber Hatten-Staley - Staff reporter

LAURINBURG — Scotland County school officials will implement increased safety measures across the district for the 2018-19 school year.

The six board members in attendance Monday agreed with a recommendation from the administration that will require all students, K-12, to carry clear backpacks.

The clear bags allow school officials to more easily see what’s inside each child’s book bag to prevent students from concealing a weapon.

Vice-chair Rick Singletary said if the board was going to move ahead with the policy it needed to be done sooner rather than later.

“I don’t want parents to start buying book bags and then we tell them that’s not acceptable. If we’re going to make that decision I would like for us to do it as early as possible,” he said.

Board member Jamie Sutherland questioned what students would do to protect their Chromebooks, since the clear book bags provide less protection for the technology than a standard backpack.

“All students will be provided with a padded case to protect the laptops — if someone steps on it or drops it they won’t break,” Johnson said.

Prior to the decision, Jim Johnston, a concerned citizen, addressed the board about ensuring Scotland County Schools isn’t a casualty of a school shooting.

“I am not a politician running for office (and) I do not have any children in your school system but I am a very concerned citizen about students bringing guns into our schools,” said Johnston. “I recently read an article where they are forecasting the number of school shootings for this coming school year. The number is 10. If this is not a wake-up call, I don’t know what it takes. They are forecasting like hurricanes, 10 school shootings this coming year.”

The Exchange was unable to find the article Johnston referenced during his comments to the board, but did find an analysis of school shootings done by The Washington Post that found since the Columbine shooting in 1999 there have been an average of 10 school shooting per year.

Johnston went on to pose several questions to the board about how guns have made it onto the campus of Scotland High School undetected.

”You need to be transparent with the public about student safety in our schools. If this was not an isolated issue that also needs to be addressed. We do not want to see Scotland County Schools on the six o’clock news because of a shooting. We had a warning, now it’s time for the officials to make our schools more secure. Lets not be a statistic,” he said.

An incident that took place in May where two male students were arrested and charged with bringing a gun to Scotland High School has prompted school officials to take a closer look at the district’s safety measures and how they can be improved.

Board members will meet with Scotland High School Principal Brian Edkins on July 23 during their Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss the installation of metal detectors.

“As part of our conversation to try and protect our schools we have spoken with Mr. Edkins about coming and speaking at the Committee of the Whole meeting about implementing metal detectors and how he and his staff would handle that on a daily basis,” Johnson said. “I have already looked at purchasing the metal detectors for the schools, there is a three to four week turnaround so we are good as far as once we have that conversation if we need to order them we can. We’ll move forward once we have that conversation with Mr. Edkins.”

The school board will meet on Monday, July 23, at 5 p.m. at the A.B. Gibson Center. The meeting is open to the public.

Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]

Issue of guns on campuses also discussed

By Amber Hatten-Staley

Staff reporter