Four local schools under threat as state lawmakers push for gun safety laws



Threats of gun violence led students to a heavy police presence and a drop in student participation at four schools in Mecklenburg County on Thursday. (Adobe Stock)

“It was my first threat at school,” Xavier said nonchalantly, as if being a freshman at an American high school in 2021 meant gun violence or the threat was to be expected. of such appears at some point. For him, it took a little over two weeks.

A freshman at North Mecklenburg High School, Xavier, whose name has been changed for anonymity, first noticed that something was wrong when he arrived at school on the morning of Thursday 9 September. Arriving on the Huntersville campus, he approached the parking lot, where he was looking for a friend with whom he often went to class. The friend was held back by the fact that the police appeared to search everyone who got off the buses.

Xavier found it strange, but couldn’t sit down to think about it or wait for his friend any longer, as he had to learn English. It was there that a classmate immediately asked if he had heard of the threat of guns. She told him that rumors and threats of gun violence on the northern Mecklenburg campus and other high schools spread on social media overnight and into the morning.

Xavier said he hadn’t been on social media much overnight, but he checked Instagram Stories and found some of the posts his classmate was referring to. The posts linked threats of violence at school to shootings in Charlotte in the previous 48 hours, including a drive-by shooting that claimed the life of 3-year-old Asiah Figueroa and the murder of 18-year-old Johnny . Scott in West Charlotte on Wednesday.

Police believe these and other incidents, including the murder of 16-year-old Jaylen Foster in north Charlotte on Sunday, stemmed from high school clashes that escalated on social media.

The CMPD confirmed it had increased the police presence in northern Mecklenburg and three other high schools – Hopewell, Julius Chambers and West Mecklenburg – on Thursday due to the online threats.

“The CMPD continues to monitor and assess social media posts, including those involving school safety in our jurisdiction,” the department wrote in a statement released shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday. “We are aware of the publications on social networks[s] regarding the recent shootings and homicides that have occurred. We continue to assess the situation, work with our ORS and allocate our resources as needed to facilitate a safe learning environment for students in our jurisdiction.

Parents Respond to Threat of Gun Violence

Xavier was not aware of any of the details related to the violence earlier in the week; all he knew was that his comrades were concerned for their own safety.

“I wouldn’t say it was nerve-racking, but it was like an out-of-body experience,” he told Queen City Nerve. “We weren’t sure if something was going to happen or not. ”

As his teacher entered the room Thursday morning, Xavier noticed that only about a dozen of the 20 students in his class were there. When the final bell rang, her teacher immediately recognized the situation which seemed to be of concern to all of her students.

She told them they could take their phones out of the trash they had placed them in, a new policy implemented earlier in the week, so their parents could contact them if they heard any reports of a threat to the school. She told the class that they would not be leaving the room for unnecessary reasons, and if a student needed to use the restroom they would need to be escorted.

“There were some students who were a little nervous, and the teacher seemed nervous as well. I wasn’t really too worried, but it was definitely something I wasn’t used to, ”recalls Xavier. “I wasn’t really scared or anything, but it was more like, what should I do if something like this happens?” I have no idea what to do. I’m not going to go out and try to disarm this person. It was more of a feeling of numbness… What if a person with a gun just walked into the classroom and blew me up first?

He texted his mom to let her know he was okay and then his dad, who came to pick him up. Xavier said he had already noticed a heavy police presence at the school when walking to his first class, but on his way to the office to meet his father, who waited almost 40 minutes in a line of other parents on the same mission, it became all the clearer.

“There was at least one officer on every street corner outside,” he said. “When we got out there was a bunch of people sitting there [waiting for rides] … The whole atmosphere, it seemed – it’s a little inexplicable – maybe dark, maybe dark would be the right word.

Raleigh gun control calls

At 9 a.m. on Thursday, while Xavier was in class considering his next move, a group of Raleigh lawmakers were holding a press conference in response to incidents of gun violence and threats that have already occurred in North Carolina schools during the first two weeks of the school year.

Although there were several incidents involving guns found in schools across the state, including in Mecklenburg County during the first week of school, things hit a critical point on the 1st. September, when 15-year-old William Chavis Reynard Miller Jr. was shot and killed at Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem.

State officials met Thursday morning to announce a petition to discharge two gun safety bills that were blocked in committee, which the sponsors say are expected to be presented for debate and consideration at in light of recent threats to student safety across the state.

“A discharge petition is the only way for a member of the minority to try to get a bill out of committee and put it for debate and consideration,” said Democratic NC representative Marcia Morey , “because once again we have tabled gun control legislation that has been tabled in committee and has never been brought to light.

Morey is the primary sponsor of House Bill 525, known as the Extreme Risk Protection Orders Act, which would allow concerned citizens or law enforcement to seek orders temporarily restricting access to firearms to a person with threatening and violent behavior. NC Rep. John Autry of Charlotte is also a sponsor of Bill.

“What that says is ‘Let’s adopt in North Carolina what at least 20 other states have in place,'” said Morey, referring to similar legislation on protection against extreme risks across the country. country. “I was a judge and several times on the stand I heard someone say, ‘I knew this was going to happen. There were red flags, there was threatening behavior, I knew it was going to happen.

Unsure of next steps

North Carolina Representative Julie von Haefen, lead sponsor of House 623, which would require someone to have a license to purchase a long gun in North Carolina, also spoke on Thursday. She pointed out that 631 people were killed by guns in North Carolina in 2020, a 31% increase from the previous year.

“It’s not just numbers,” said von Haefen. “Every person these numbers represent is a victim. They are our neighbors and our friends. Someone’s mother. Someone’s child. Someone is a brother. We need to remember this and center this when we discuss our next steps. ”

She said two guns were confiscated at her son’s high school in Raleigh over the past week.

“Teachers and students have many reasons to be worried and afraid at this time,” she continued. “We can take a closer look at common sense changes to our gun laws, we can increase funding for services such as community violence intervention programs and school support staff to help reach them. students before this violence happens. If we wanted to, we could take measurable steps right now to help make the classroom safer. ”

She added that because the legislature did not sit on Thursday, she and her colleagues were forced to wait until next Wednesday to file their discharge request.

“It’s one more week that we refuse to do anything,” said von Haefen. “It’s still a week of inaction.

Back in Charlotte, Xavier continued to wonder if he would go to school on Friday. He had heard that the online threats were for Thursday and Friday.

In a press conference Thursday afternoon, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Director Earnest Winston called on parents to make sure their children check their sources of information.

“Please understand that the information they receive from social media and their friends may not always be accurate,” Winston said. “The point I mean is to trust the administrators of your school who will make the best decisions to keep your child safe. They will communicate accurate information when they get it.

Although the CMPD said officers will continue to have an increased presence at the four schools in question until the end of the week, many of Xavier’s friends have already decided to stay home.

“I don’t want to go and this is the day the shooter wanted to show up,” he told Queen City Nerve. “I’m debating… I’ll think about the best idea. i finished what i was doing [in class on Thursday] at home, but I’m worried about my grades.

And these are the concerns of an American high school student in 2021.

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