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Rep. Hudson discusses ongoing work in stopping school violence

By: Thomas Lott

CONCORD – Rep. Richard Hudson, representing the 8th district in North Carolina, hosted a roundtable discussion with local law enforcement Friday to discuss several big topics, including one which he has been dealing with extensively in recent years – putting a stop to violence in schools.

Hudson led efforts to get the Stop School Violence Act of 2018 passed which provides awards directly to states, units of local government, or Indian tribes to improve security at schools and on school grounds in the jurisdiction of the grantee through evidence-based school safety programs.

School shootings have been on the rise in recent years and Hudson has been at the forefront in the U.S. House of stopping these tragedies before they ever have a chance to start.

“Last year the house passed a spending bill with an amendment I put in to double money that’s available to study, to research the cause of gun violence, this was included in the Stop School Violence Act in the past, and I support legislation of the current congress to strengthen background checks, improve communication between state and local law enforcement,” Hudson said. “I think that’s kind of one of the loopholes we saw in Florida and other places.

“So these potential violent active shooters don’t fall through the cracks like I think again, Florida, the Parkland shooter is one of the best examples, there were so many different red flags that were ignored. But at the end of the day it’s not the government alone that’s going to solve this problem, it’s got to be the community getting serious about the root causes of violence whether it’s the breakdown of the family, whether it’s the culture adequately dealing with mental health in our community and I always want to make sure I’m focused on the things that are working here and helpful to you.”

Before 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked onto the campus at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February 2018, he wasn’t shy about his plans. One neighbor actually contacted police saying Cruz talked about shooting up a school on Instagram. Cruz is alleged to have even introduced himself as “a school shooter.”

Also, in Dave Cullen’s book Columbine, there is a moment detailed where one of the two shooters Eric Harris tried to recruit another boy to participate in the shooting. He passed it off as a joke, but the red flags were evident. Despite them, the shootings still happened.

“All of us in this room want to do everything we can to prevent that from occurring ahead of time,” Cabarrus County Sheriff Van Shaw said. “Regardless, I think all of us are aware it can happen anywhere, anytime and we’ve got to do everything we can to make sure we identify people early on in the process that may be a potential threat and get them help that they need and be able to protect our kids as they attend school.”

Making schools safer is a process. Addressing an individual’s mental health, strengthening gun laws and setting up safeguards on campuses are only part of the work that is being done. What happened in May 2019 at a Portland High School is rare. Former Oregon football player Keanon Lowe confronted a shooter and stopped him before a single shot was fired. It’s an amazing story, but one that hopefully will never have to happen again.

Representative Hudson doesn’t want a teacher to ever have to confront a shooter. He wants to prevent that from ever needing to happen, and the state is starting to see preventative measures put in place both in schools and local law enforcement.

“A lot of the grant money that we’ve made available from last congress is sort of being implemented now,” Hudson said. “So you’re seeing communities across North Carolina that are accessing these grants to harden schools. We’re seeing metal detectors and barriers and, you know, one of the issues is a lot of our older schools have multiple access points, how do we limit to single access points?

“And then we’re seeing a lot of training on the mental health side on the intervention side, what we were talking about earlier with (Crisis Intervention Training), we’re also seeing that in schools, we’ve made resources available, again I think we know who these children are, it’s a matter of do we have the resources to actually intervene and help them so they don’t fall through the cracks?”

Putting a stop to gun violence in schools and gun violence in general is very much an ongoing situation. As Hudson mentioned, many of the changes they have made are just now coming into effect and there is more to be done.

Some of that has to do with grant money, a lot of which is divvied up because of meetings like Friday’s where local law enforcement lets representatives know what they need and then reps go back and see if they can get it done. Hudson said he would obviously love to have a magical checkbook that can give everyone all the money they could want or need, but that’s simply not always possible.

But Hudson said he wants to help and he sounded more than receptive to all of the issues law enforcement brought up, and in the end, he hopes to get everything he can done for them and the community as a whole.

“I think looking for areas of collaboration, looking for ways that I can help plug in and that’s one thing we’ll go back and look at, just kind of what grant opportunities are there? And with these newer programs we might be able to highlight for y’all,” Hudson said. “And I am seriously always looking for feedback, like ‘OK, this grant program was written in such a way that it doesn’t work here and here’s why.’

“And I can take that feedback back and find ways to streamline, because, at the end of the day, we need the money in the community helping people and in the hands of your departments where the rubber meets the road and not tied up in bureaucracies and so forth, so I’m always looking for ways we can streamline it and get better.”

Note: This article originally appeared in the Indpenendent Tribune. Click here.

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