“There Are Lots of Things We Do That We Don’t Even Know That We Did” – The Unsafe Legal Loopholes of NC Charter Schools


Yesterday, the 12th school shooting of 2018 took place in Los Angeles.

A 12-year-old girl was booked on a charge of negligent discharge of a firearm after two students were shot in a Los Angeles middle school classroom on Thursday, police said.

A 15-year-old boy who was shot in the head was in critical condition, and a 15-year-old girl who was shot in the arm was listed as stable, Los Angeles police said Thursday night. Los Angeles County-University of Southern California Medical Center said both were expected to make full recoveries – https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/los-angeles-middle-school-shooting-two-students-wounded-female-student-n843726.

Yesterday at my school a fire alarm went off about five minutes after school ended its last class. It was not a drill and emergency vehicles did appear quickly. Students knew where to go and faculty went into a emergency mode. We have had an actual electrical fire occur before because of faulty equipment, so we are rather sensitive to safety.

Then this report came today.

From WRAL:

The horrific images of school shootings are branded in the public consciousness. Sandy Hook, Columbine, and just last week, Marshall County, Kentucky, where a 15-year-old student killed two classmates and hit a dozen others with gunfire. And the list goes on.

While North Carolina has taken major steps to improve school safety, a loophole in the law means some public schools might not be prepared if they ever have to go into lockdown.

North Carolina law requires traditional public schools to practice lockdown drills at least once a year to prepare if an intruder ever came on campus. Yet, North Carolina charter schools, which are publicly funded and privately run, are not required to do the same (https://www.wral.com/legal-loophole-allows-nc-charter-schools-to-forgo-safety-lockdown-drills/17304844/?version=amp&__twitter_impression=true).

It does not seem likely that it was a deliberate omission on the part of lawmakers to allow charter schools to not have to do safety drills as a requirement to receiving public money for operations, But it is not an excuse.

Rather, it is a symptom of a bigger problem in North Carolina: the rush to allow charter schools to operate to fulfill a political agenda for promoting “school choice” before thinking all matters through.

Perhaps the most eye-opening part of the WRAL report came with Rep. Craig Horn’s comments about the loophole.

“I’m glad that you brought it up. There are lots of things we do that we don’t even know that we did,” said Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union, who serves as house education committee chair.

Lawmakers intended to give charter schools more flexibility, Horn explained, but “safety is safety is safety.”

“If it’s a good idea and it’s proven to be a good idea, then yes, let’s do it,” he said.

Horn says he’s open to changing the law, but plans to consult with charter school leaders first.

Of course Rep. Horn would be concerned. He and other lawmakers would not in any way want to place students in any school in an unsafe situation. However, when he says, “There are lots of things we do that we don’t even know that we did,” one has to wonder if there are a lot of other “unintended consequences” to a lot of things that Horn and other lawmakers have done that could have been prevented if principles came before personalities and public came before politics.

Removing the charter school cap was rather an abrupt action. So were voucher expansions, the ISD school district, and other “reforms.” And to contradict what Rep. Horn says above, those ideas are not “proven to be good idea(s).”

But it’s what Horn says last that really shows advocates like myself the lack of vetting and precautionary actions used by the North Carolina General Assembly when they allowed for so many “reform” to be released on North Carolina’ s public school system.

Horn says he’s open to changing the law, but plans to consult with charter school leaders first.


This past week the venerable Justin Parmenter published an op-ed in EdNC.org entitled “Unintended consequences: Legislation deserves the educator’s touch.”  It is more than worth the read. It takes a more disarming tact than posts on this blog tend to, but its power is not negated in any way. It talks very well about the need to consult teachers and educational leaders before enacting broad and sweeping reforms on schools.

If Horn’s assertions that changing the laws and mandates for charter schools means talking to their leaders first, then should it not be reasonable to think that before making changes to the entire educational system that lawmakers consult with educational leaders like teachers, administrators, and superintendents?

And if that did happen, why is there really no proof of that?

Yes, there should be safety drills in all schools.

And there should be more done to make sure that we don’t have to say “there are lots of things we do that we don’t even know that we did.”

Too much at stake.