• Press Release

CFSS Executive Director Participates in Panel Discussion


In the wake of the Oct. 13 mass shooting in Raleigh, N.C. Center for Safer Schools Executive Director Karen W. Fairley on Tuesday discussed the role of schools in preventing another tragedy.


During Taking Action: A Community Conversation at the N.C. Museum of History, Fairley joined a panel discussion with Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, an expert in gun violence at Duke University School of Medicine, and State Health Director Dr. Elizabeth Cuervo Tilson. Among other topics, the three experts discussed programs their agencies have implemented.



The suspect in the October attack that killed five and injured two is a teen student. Fairley told the dozens attending the forum that training and “good communication” are important for schools to help identify students who need assistance.


“Did we miss something?” Fairley said, sharing her first thought upon hearing of the deadly shooting in Raleigh’s Hedingham neighborhood.


The CFSS in late October awarded more than $74 million in School Safety Grants. Fairley said the funding in part will go toward the hiring of school resource officers, whose role is “not to police but to support.”


“There has to be a way for us to have adults in schools,” she said.


In response to an audience question from Rob Steele, fiancé of Mary Marshall, who was killed in the October attack, Fairley said the General Assembly awarded funding last year for school psychologists. The challenge, she said, is recruitment.


“We have a daunting task to do,” she said. “Everyone in school is a loved one for somebody.”

Fairley identified bullying as an issue in schools and touted the CFSS’ Say Something Anonymous Reporting System as an important resource.


Among the trainings the CFSS offers for school personnel is behavioral threat assessment, which is a best practice for helping to identify potential active shooter incidents, stalking and other targeted violence in K-12 schools and school districts. Fairley said threat assessment “is not a punitive measure.”


Fairley analogized school safety preparation to preparing for a plane ride.

“It is to see what help they need,” she said. “An inconvenience is a small price to pay for everyone’s safety.”


Fairley, who grew up in public housing, said guns are “readily available” in impoverished communities. She said children need to make “educated choices” and “understand consequences,” which is the purpose of the CFSS’ Educating Kids about Gun and Gang Violence program.


“We need to now approach children about the choices they make,” Fairley said. “What happens in the community goes over into schools. You can’t know what goes on in the mind of a person.”


Taking Action: A Community Conversation was sponsored by The (Raleigh) News & Observer and N.C. Insider. The forum was moderated by Lars Dolder, editor of N.C. Insider.

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