At Pender County Schools, your student's safety is our priority. We strive to provide safe, comfortable learning environments for each of our more than 9,000 students every day. Student safety requires many people working together, including staff, students, local law enforcement, emergency management and the greater community. As a community, we want to make sure you're informed on the staff, technology, drills, and supports in place to make our schools safe for your children.

Pender County Schools' Safety Committee was established in October 2017 to review and revise, when necessary, the district's safety procedures. The Safety Committee currently includes Superintendent Dr. Steven Hill, Chief Officer of Auxiliary Services Darren Lafon, Construction Manager and Safety Officer Rick Dutka, Director Dr. Robbie Cauley, Communications Coordinator Miranda Ferguson, Topsail Elementary Principal Melissa Wilson, Pender High Principal Chris Madden, Pender County Sheriff's Office Capt. James Rowell, and Pender County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Eric Wallen.

Please read below to learn more about Pender County Schools Safety Initiatives.

Emergency Drills

Pender County Schools works with local law enforcement, emergency services and community agencies to conduct regular drills and exercises to ensure our students and staff know what to do in case of emergency.

Staff and students receive annual training and practice through professional development and drills in order to help ensure a safe school setting. Emergency management, law enforcement, fire and rescue, and the health department actively participate and assist in this training.

Listed below are several training opportunities the district utilizes on a regular basis:

  • Emergency Response Plan - A series of codes and procedures are in place in order to address emergency issues such as blood and bodily fluid spills, serious injury, fire, weather emergencies, and threats to student safety. Copies of this plan are kept in every classroom throughout the district.
  • Drills - Every school conducts an annual tornado drill, monthly fire drills, regular lockdown and bus evacuation drills in order to remain prepared for emergency situations.
  • The schools partner with the sheriff's department and other local law enforcement agencies in safety trainings, including those for potential extremely dangerous situations. Canine units are utilized to protect student safety as well.
  • Each school in the district has video surveillance.
  • School buses have video capability and will soon be equipped with GPS devices so parents will know when to expect the bus at drop-off and pick-up.
  • All middle and high schools have Emergency Action Plans for all athletic events.
  • Every high school has an automatic external defibrillator on campus, with staff trained in its use. In addition, all varsity head coaches are CPR trained.
  • There are four Epi-Pens in each school in order to respond to instances of anaphylactic shock.
  • Three schools in the district are emergency shelters for community use during times of severe weather or as deemed necessary by emergency management.

School Nurses

School Nurses are often the only healthcare professional on site in the school. Their decisions and practices must be grounded in professionally recognized standards, school health laws, and state legislation. The ten school nurses employed in Pender County must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and maintain National Certification as a school nurse. School nurses must complete a minimum of 75 hours of continuing education every five years in order to maintain their certification.

Daily duties and responsibilities for school nurses include:

  • Perform physical assessments and make nursing diagnoses based on variations from the norm and professional judgement
  • Review records of all students with special healthcare needs to determine eligibility of services so proper accommodations can be made
  • Create health and emergency plans for students with both chronic and acute medical conditions, including education and training of school staff and the recognition and management of urgent emergency situations
  • Work closely with local and state public health officials in order to monitor the overall health of the school population and protect against disease outbreaks
  • Make direct assessments of student health complaints and injuries, lead health screening programs, and coordinate medication administration


The role of the counselor has changed dramatically over the last several years. The school counselor in the 21st century provides services for students that are quite different than many adults remember, or as they are depicted in popular television shows.

From kindergarten through 12th grade, today's school counselors perform many duties on a daily basis, including:

  • Working with students to evaluate their abilities, skills, and achievement
  • Assisting students to develop goals based on academic, career, and social/emotional data
  • Providing support to student and families as they navigate crisis and emergency situations
  • Meeting with students individually and in small groups to provide counseling, recognize and respond to mental health needs, and to assist families to find appropriate resources
  • Provide instruction to students and teachers that promote academic, career, social, and emotional growth
  • Support student growth through community referrals, collaboration with families and teachers, and consulting with community groups on strategies that promote student achievement.

School Resource Officers

School Resource Officers are sworn law enforcement officers with the legal authority to arrest. The Pender County Sheriff's Department has SROs assigned to every school in Pender County. Each SRO has to be proficient in law enforcement, child and developmental psychology, public speaking, juvenile justice (which is considerably more complicated than dealing with adults), investigations, rapid deployment techniques, emergency medical response, crime prevention, and community relations.

SRO duties include:

  • Enforce state and local laws and ordinances and assist school officials with enforcement of applicable Board of Education policies
  • Investigate criminal activity committed on school property, bus stops, or involving students assigned to the officer's school
  • Answer questions from students and parents about juvenile law and North Carolina law
  • Provide security for special events as necessary
  • Monitoring school campuses for safety concerns and advise school administration as necessary
  • Establish a positive relationship with students and law enforcement through support, positive interactions, counseling, and classroom presentations, including the G.R.E.A.T. Program

Digital Safety

The rapid development and implementation of internet and computer technology has been a great benefit to the students and faculty in Pender County Schools. Students can access information from around the world, while completing assignments developed at school. The district works constantly to help keep its internet network a safe place for students and staff.

In order to help maintain this safety, the district has taken the following measures:

  • All staff and students are trained annually on the district Acceptable Use Policy for technology.
  • The district maintains control of the installation of all software programs on all district-owned devices.
  • The Zscaler web filter is used to protect users from malware, viruses, advanced and persistent threats, and questionable or inappropriate websites. Access to Chromebook apps and YouTube are also filtered.
  • Staff members are provided training on ethical technology use through Digital Learning Competency Training.
  • All electronic communication in the district is archived; teacher communication is kept for five years and student information for one year.
  • Student and staff behavior when using district-owned technological resources are governed by Board of Education policies.
  • Parents have the ability to opt-out of allowing their child to access the internet at school.