Richmond-native named to state task force on school safety

Matthew Sasser Staff Writer

ROCKINGHAM — Evonne Moore has been re-appointed to Governor Cooper’s Task Force for Safer Schools.

It’s the third time that the Richmond County native will be serving a four-year term. In her 32 years of being a school social worker, she’s held many leadership and advisory roles, including being on the Richmond Community College Board of Trustees and the Richmond County Health Advisory Board. Moore was the North Carolina State School Social Worker of the 2004-2005 school year.

The Task Force for Safer Schools was established in 2013. Moore was originally appointed under Governor Pat McCrory.

“(The most positive thing about the task force is) everybody recognizes that school safety is the responsibility of everybody,” Moore said. “It’s the responsible of everybody to be observant, to notice the signs and symptoms of abuse, and to feel as though you’re just as much obligated to report as the next person if you see it. You want to see it, say something about it, and do something about it.”

Even prior to the pandemic, there’s was an increase in concern over mental health, according to Moore. It’s been difficult for school social workers to see the visible signs of abuse and neglect due to children not being physically in school. Home visits have been extremely limited. Moore said that for children who are being sexually abused, teachers are unable to adequately help them without seeing them in person. She said that number of children suffering from mental health issues has increased.

At the task force’s inception, they didn’t have a position for a social worker. Moore had been working on the North Carolina State School Social Work Association and was approached about the position by individuals who wanted to recommend her.

In her position on the task force, Moore represents all of the school social workers in the state of North Carolina. They meet four times a year, but her role includes working with many other subcommittees on mental health and bullying preventative programs, among many other things.

“There’s so many things that when something escalates on the state level, if it involves bullying, violence or suicide, the mental health and school climate committee meet,” Moore said. “We discuss what’s going on in the school system and ways to come up with strategies to prevent those things from happening and how to get tools and skills to teachers and other staff so they can better assist the students they serve.”

Moore talks to school social workers from around the state and conducts polls and surveys to see what is and isn’t working within the school system. She may ask individuals about the procedures or lack of procedures they have in place in preventing suicide. She then takes the data and recommendations to the task force, which may then make it into the legislature.

“I represent the voice of all the school social workers,” Moore said.

Some of Moore’s favorite things that the task force has accomplished include promoting the See Something, Say Something app, which is an anonymous reporting app that students can use if they see something they’re worried about. Students don’t have to fear retaliation for speaking out against something they think could be wrong.

The task force has always worked on mental health initiatives, such as putting psychologists into the schools. Moore said that while counselors and social workers perform basic counseling, peer remediation and deescalating situations, they don’t have the clinical training that a licensed psychologist has to address issues such as suicidal ideation.

Moore retired from the school system in June last year after serving as a social worker for 32 years. She plans to do more part-time work in the schools in the future. She said that she is a product of her community, and she has always wanted to give back to Richmond County, which has given so much for her. She started her education at RCC.

“I always make sure that I make myself readily available for Richmond County Schools or any other agencies that like to talk with me or share thoughts with me or have input on things that they think need to be addressed,” Moore said. “I feel honored to represent Richmond County.”

The task force has not met face-to-face since the onset of the pandemic, but Moore said that there should be a meeting soon with the newly appointed members.

“It’s wonderful to have a task force that we continue to work on things so that all of our 2,500 schools in North Carolina are safe and secure,” said Moore. “And that families feel comfortable with their children going to school everyday, knowing that we have things in place to protect them and they can feel that they’re children are safe.”

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Reach Matthew Sasser at 910-817-2671 or [email protected]