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School safety, ways to enforce it discussed at forum in Greenville

Law enforcement and community members in Greenville came together Tuesday to talk about school safety and how they can prevent what happened in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14. (Nicole Griffin, NewsChannel 12 photo)

Law enforcement and community members in Greenville came together Tuesday to talk about school safety and how they can prevent what happened in Parkland, Florida on Feb. 14.

On the eve of National Walkout Day, an event sparked by the mass shooting that killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, concerned community members, parents and law enforcement gathered at J.H.Rose High School in Greenville to see what they could do on their part to protect their schools.

The movement is said to be partly a protest to push lawmakers to pass gun reform while also honoring those who died in the shooting. Tuesday's meeting focused on the concerns generated by the mass shooting as well as discussing ideas that could be put into place to protect students.

"I think it is an issue we are all worried about," said Lisa Reardon, a concerned parent who was at Tuesday's meeting. "I couldn't live with myself if I didn't work to do something to keep our kids safe."

That's why the school and local authorities are having an open dialogue with the community about safety.

"We know we could always get better," said Dr. Ethan Lenker, Superintendent of Pitt County Schools. "We always need to be reflecting on our schools and ways we can improve. So this is a chance to have a dialogue with other people, maybe come up with ideas we haven't thought of and things like that so we can certainly reflect and communicate and have a dialogue on that and improve our school system."

While many steps that have been taken were discussed, such as strict ID checks and door buzzers at schools, many agreed more needs to be done. Community members stood up and called for things such as hiring and training more school resource officers and providing more mental health resources.

"I think it is time now that we demand that we make our schools harder targets," Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks said. "I think we need to get behind the people who make those decisions."

What it comes down to is money. Glen Webb, the chairman of the Pitt County Board of Commissioners, said that problem could be tackled with a slight tax raise.

"A one penny tax increase sounds like a lot of money because it raises a lot of money but really, it costs the average tax payer $30 dollars a year," Webb said. "So the cost of not doing it may be someone's life and someone's life is with a whole lot more than $30 bucks a year, just over $2 a month."

While nothing firm was decided, with the help of the community, the path toward increased safety is clear.

"Laying out a good comprehensive plan for the schools moving forward I think is the next step," Greenville Police Chief Mark Holtzman said. "And then what's that gonna look like, what's that gonna cost and get that back to our community as quick as we can to allow our school board and our county commissioners to take some action."

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