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N.C. Opinions: Greensboro

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By listening, McCrory leads on school safety

From an editorial Thursday in the Greensboro News & Record:

Gov. Pat McCrory’s school safety initiative is one of the most sensible ideas to come from Raleigh so far this year.

One reason is because McCrory doesn’t want all the ideas to come from Raleigh.

The governor announced Tuesday the formation of the N.C. Center for Safer Schools. It responds to concerns about school security since the massacre of 20 children at a Connecticut elementary school in December.

That tragedy has prompted a spate of proposed legislation, including measures that would authorize school officials to carry guns. Is that the best way to make schools safer?

Unlike some legislators, McCrory didn’t claim an answer. He didn’t call for new laws or issue executive orders. Instead, he asked for other ideas. Or, as Department of Public Safety Secretary Kieran Shanahan said: “We’re not here to tell schools and communities what to do. We want to work with schools, communities and families on an individual basis to meet their localized needs.”

The center, headed by a former Wake County public school teacher and administrator, will hold eight public meetings around the state next month. It will try to “develop a comprehensive strategy of best practices throughout the state and country to protect our children, teachers, school administrators and our communities,” McCrory said.

This is a good approach for two reasons. First, it sets a goal of collecting information about what already works in other places. There’s no need to invent new solutions if existing ones are available. Second, it promises local flexibility based on specific needs and circumstances.

Legislative remedies tend to conform to prevailing political views and dictate policies from the state level to the local level.

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, no one should dismiss the possibility that similar violence could occur in a North Carolina school. At the same time, the chances of that happening at any one school are remote. It isn’t practical or wise to turn every school into an armed fortress. So, what’s the right balance?

Now is a good time to determine what role the state can play in keeping children and adults safer at school.

The governor’s approach is more likely to come up with good ideas and cooperative approaches than is the legislature with its formula of passing new laws that everyone must follow, whether they make sense locally or not. This is an issue where the governor’s listen-and-learn leadership can work best.

The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the Observer editorial board.
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