Sandy Hook shooting anniversary sparks refection on school security

WASHINGTON, N.C. (WITN) – It’s not easy to talk about, but the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting has sparked a lot of conversation about safety inside school buildings.

Here in our state, Gov. Roy Cooper used the anniversary to advocate for what he calls common sense gun laws. “There’s too much good in this world. There [are] too many people that are positive and hopeful for this kind of thing to be happening in our communities,” he said.

Today is the 10th anniversary of that tragic day. WITN sat down with the Beaufort County superintendent to talk about what he’s seen since that fateful day.

“I started as a teacher in 1995 in Biglerville, Pennsylvania,” Dr. Matthew Cheeseman said. “In terms of school shootings, I don’t think that was in our vocabulary.”

For many, like Cheeseman, the Sandy Hook shooting changed the way they thought about school security. Now, most schools keep their doors locked and many have school resource officers.

“I think our parents and our students enjoy seeing a police officer in the car rider line because that person connects with those families, starts to understand who those kids are by name,” Cheeseman said.

In Beaufort County, those officers are at 13 of their 14 schools. Like other districts, they also hold quarterly drills to train students for emergency scenarios.

“Even when we were subject to the active shooter hoax just two weeks ago, we had incredible aid and resources that came to our help at Washington High School that day,” Cheeseman explained. “Very happy, obviously, it wasn’t real. But the measures that we put into place and practiced helped us inside the building to ensure the safety of everyone.”

Cheeseman said behavior is an important part of school safety, too. For example, even if your school requires everyone to buzz in, someone could easily hold the door open for someone else who shouldn’t be coming inside. Making sure everyone follows directions can make or break safety guidelines.