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Teacher rally to test new Legislative Building security

May 16th, 2018

— The thousands of teachers expected to lobby lawmakers for more education spending and rally outside the Legislative Building on Wednesday are going to need a lot of patience.

New security checkpoints put at the building’s entrances last week allow only three people to get inside at a time. Everybody must first pass through a metal detector, while purses, backpacks and other possessions are given an X-ray scan.

The list of items that cannot be brought into the building includes weapons, knives of any size, aerosol containers, pepper spray or mace, box cutters or razors, signs on sticks, pets or non-service animals.

“I found the folks when we came in very friendly, accommodating,” Pat Mitchell, a professor at Appalachian State University who visited the Legislative Building with a group of students Tuesday, said of her first experience with the security checkpoint.

“I think, in the society we’re in now, it’s a safety feature that we hate to go to, but we’re going to,” Mitchell said. “I have no complaints. They’re trying to keep people safe.”

Legislators and their staff can bypass security, but everyone else – reporters, lobbyists and even the governor’s senior staff, as well as the hundreds of schoolchildren who tour the building every day – have to go through screening every time they enter the building.

Another major concern for Wednesday is building capacity. Under fire codes, the Legislative Building can hold only about 4,000 people – or about 3,000 once all lawmakers and staffers are accounted for.

General Assembly Police say they will keep count and will stop letting people in when the limit is reached.

Mark Jewell, president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, which organized the teacher rally, said teachers will simply wait in line outside the building and enter as someone else leaves.

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