At its regular meeting on Jan. 10, the Buncombe County Board of Education voted to spend $100,000 on new video-based security equipment that would allow school personnel to admit visitors only after they have been recognized.
Superintendant Tony Baldwin told members that at present only four of the county’s 26 schools presently have such equipment installed, and that of those, two are in need of upgrading. County Safe Schools Director Robbie Adell recommended that the board purchase a total of 24 surveillance/admittance units for a total cost of approximately $100,000 and the board unanimously voted to do so. Members emphasized, however, that the new security should be regarded as a tool and not as an end in itself.
“I’m going to recommend this,” Supt. Baldwin said, “but with the understanding that we are all aware that the technology should never replace the training of personnel and staff,” Supt. Baldwin said, adding that “the school in Newtown [Connecticut, site of a massacre of students and teachers on Dec. 14] had similar equipment in place.”
Board chairman Bob Rhinehart called purchasing the equipment “a way to start the process” but added that the upgrading of school security should be an across-the-board, ongoing priority. He added that a coalition of county officials, school administration representatives and sheriff’s office liaison personnel have been meeting and working to identify and address additional areas of safety and security concern, such as open classroom doors and students walking across campus during class change.
Board member Lisa Baldwin asked if it would be feasible to have armed security guards permanently stationed in school reception areas, near the front entrance. “Let’s make them visible,” she said, “and not put them in an office in the back somewhere.”
“Gun free school zones don’t work,” Asheville Tea Party Chairman Jane Bilello told the Board during the meeting’s public comments period. Bilello said her comments were nonpartisan and that she was making them as a former schoolteacher in New York and Florida as well as North Carolina.
“Deranged killers don’t knock. They don’t go to the main office for a visitor’s pass,” Bilello said, urging acceptance that the best deterrent to violence from in schools is the threat of being met with deadly force.
“Sixty-four million, nine hundred and ninety-nine thousand, nine hundred and eighty-seven firearms owners killed no one yesterday,” she said.