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ASHEVILLE — The 2019 School Safety Symposium, sponsored by the N.C. Association of School Administrators, was held July 25 and 26 at the DoubleTree hotel in Asheville, covering methods to ensure the safety of students in the educational environment.

On behalf of Ashe County Schools, Student Services Director Jamie Little attended the event alongside school social worker Brittany Perry. Little said there were many takeaways from the event, which covered topics such as the school shooting in Parkland, Fl., from a teacher’s perspective, conducting threat assessments and managing daily security.

“(Ashe County) is sitting in pretty good shape as far as the steps we’ve already taken and the protocols we already have in place,” Little said. “We’re not where we need to be, but we really are ahead of the game compared to a lot of places.”

During the symposium, Little said two cases were discussed related to school shootings: The Parkland Shooting in February 2018 and the Butler High School Shooting in October 2018.

“Both of those schools, when folks talked about them, they did not have updated lockdown drills, their blackboxes were not in order, they did not work with emergency management or police forces about what would happen and where to evacuate,” Little said, adding that ACS stays up-to-date with all safety measures.

Part of her duties as director of student services is handling threat assessments in the school system, Little said, with the help of Perry, who was hired as the first school social worker for ACS in 10 years after the school system received a safety grant from the state in fall 2018.

Little said that part of her interest in attending the symposium was to hear new ways to update the threat assessment program, which has been in place for five years at ACS.

“Everything’s going well, but there’s always room for improvement,” Little said.

Following the symposium, Little said she is already working on updates to the threat assessment program, which will be implemented within the first several weeks of the upcoming school year.

Threat assessments are conducted anytime students make a threat to themselves or others, or physically harms someone.

“We sit down and have a huge meeting with the parents, the student, teachers and support staff, and try to put a plan in place to see if they’re safe to come back to school,” Little said, as well as further steps that need to be taken, such as therapy or additional curriculum needs, she added.

Due to the number of threat assessments being conducted, Little said she applied for the school safety grant in hopes of receiving funding for the salary of a school social worker, which was later awarded. Perry started in the role in October 2018.

“She’s very good at what she does,” Little said, adding that Perry helps with following up with families after threat assessments and providing them with the resources they need going forward, among other responsibilities.

For more information about safety measures at Ashe County Schools, visit https://www.asheschools.org/Page/3850.

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