School safety task force hears opposition to more officers in South Carolina schools
The SC School Safety Task Force met Thursday at the Statehouse.
COLUMBIA, S.C. –
A special School Safety Task Force is working on its recommendations for making South Carolina schools safer, including recommending that an armed officer be put in every school in the state. But the group heard opposition Thursday from the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina.
Tracey Tucker of the ACLU told the task force that having more police officers in schools causes more problems, while having them do community policing, including stopping into schools every now and then, has been more effective in Charleston.
“In 2013, 16,754 young South Carolinians were taken to Family Courts by the solicitor,” she told the task force. “Only 1,394 of those children were charged with serious or violent crimes. 6% were charged with disturbing schools, 4% with truancy, and 3% with the vague offense of being incorrigible. Because of the impact on so many students in our state, we urge the task force to address this complicated but critical question of how to protect students without rushing to put police in schools.”
The other question is whether a recommendation to put an officer in every school will do any good, since it would be only a recommendation and not a requirement. Task force member Lt. Dwayne Robinson, Sr., who supervises school resource officers in Chester County and is second vice president of the Association of School Resource Officers, says, “Personally I think it should be a requirement. A recommendation, as you stated, is just that. ‘We recommend that you do this’ but, at the end of the day, that’s put on the shelf.”
He says there are anywhere from 500 to 600 school resource officers in South Carolina’s 1,177 public schools.
Task force chairman Rep. Jerry Govan, D-Orangeburg, says he’s hoping lawmakers will see the importance of having an officer in every school and will put that into law. “We don’t want this to be another set of recommendations that are put up on a shelf somewhere gathering dust,” he said after the meeting.
But Gov. Nikki Haley does not think the state should require every school to have an officer. “School districts know what they need. They know which schools they need it in. They know what presence they need to have and I don’t think we, as a state, need to be dictating-down on what they need to do. I think they know what’s best to save their children,” she said Thursday.
The task force expects to have two more meetings before finalizing its report to state lawmakers, who go back into session in January.