Law enforcement on campus, active shooter training for faculty and an increase in security during athletic events are some of the changes Columbia's Cardinal Newman high school promised during a town hall meeting Thursday evening. The school is dealing with the aftermath a 16-year-old former student’s racist video and threats to “shoot up” the school.
In a statement, Principal Rob Loia called the videos “evil, disgusting and wrong,” he also said that this is a “critical moment for the school.”
This has been a trying time for all of the Cardinal Newman community. The videos are evil, disgusting and wrong. I have never seen anything like this in my nearly three decades in education.
This is a critical moment for our school. First, our students’ safety is our absolute first priority. We are recommitted to teaching one another to appreciate each other’s infinite value.
As the Principal, and leader of our family here, I promise that I will do everything in my power to address the concerns raised in tonight’s town hall. We heard your voices; and let us show you our support through our actions. We will continue to investigate and assure you the investigation will be thorough.
We have a lot of work to do, and are dedicated to doing what’s right, not what’s easy. It has always been and will continue to be our mission to ensure that all students feel welcome and safe, and parents feel confident that their child is growing both academically and spiritually. This is consistent with who we are, and with our understanding of one another. All are made in God’s image and likeness. All have infinite value.
This is my commitment to Cardinal Newman and the Columbia community. We must come together to move forward. I ask you to join me in the important work we must do together – not for us, but for our children.
Thursday’s town hall was a first for Cardinal Newman. Parents, teachers, faculty, staff, students and members of the community talked for more than two hours about how the school should move forward. Security and diversity changes include:
- Law enforcement presence on campus during the beginning and end of the school day (for two weeks)
- Active shooter training for all faculty
- Increase school security
- Add gates to the school’s entrance
- Increase security during athletic events
- Request a threat assessment from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department
- Faculty diversity training
- Implement a diverse speaker series throughout the school year
Many parents also expressed concerns of a lack of transparency from the school; some shared incidents racism and bullying. Parent Devlon Porter said what's happened in the past is a great concern to parents.
"There's a lot of pain that has been buried and covered up; and they are being exposed now."
Porter said the Cardinal Newman is a great school but called recent events "underlining problems" that need to be addressed.
"Some of those things have been brought to the attention of the institution before and not been address; as one parent stated tonight. We definitely need to address any kind of racism or discrimination taking place in the school."
Another parent, Terri Wright said she's walking away from the town hall with mixed feelings.
"I believe that there are good intentions to protect our children however, do think that there needs to be increased dialog with the parents throughout the year."