School Safety Summit: Last week, I had the privilege to join Governor Henry McMaster at the SC School Safety summit- he invited nearly 50 panelists, including leaders in Education, Mental Health and Public Safety sectors as well as myself and my colleagues from the SC Children’s Committee. Gov. McMaster and Education Supt Molly Spearman gave opening remarks, and then panelists were asked to provide observations and solutions to school safety challenges. You can watch the videos from each panel by visiting here,
Here are a few comments from the discussion:
- SLED leadership referred to multiple “studies” that were conducted and published in the past 20 years, they outlined steps that were needed to ensure every school was safe- several leaders questioned why those recommendations have not yet been implemented
- Several leaders, including Gov. McMaster and House Members, called for placing an SRO or “professionally trained safety officer” at every school in SC- and for those funds to come from the General Assembly- currently in Greenville, SROs are funded as a partnership between the school district and local law enforcement
- There was a lot of discussion about the importance of mental health professionals within our schools
- Spearman shared the plan for the SC Dept of Education to provide additional mental health training for all school district personnel, and training to help equip teachers and students to look for warning signs among students within their school population
- One officer shared “there is not a magic bullet here, not a single thing we can do to magically make our students completely safe from violent acts”- but a comprehensive review could make our schools much safer
- Though we had nearly 50 speakers, NO ONE spoke favorably about arming teachers or classroom professionals.
A few takeaways relevant to Greenville Schools: Many of the ideas proposed by the panel are already in place in Greenville County Schools- including:
- every HS and MS has an SRO, all of our schools have secured entrances that limit where people can enter our schools, controlled catchment areas
- each school now has a secure double-door catchment area that prevents an individual from entering the school without permission
- regular “lockdown drills” which are the equivalent of active shooter drills, but with a different name
- We have more than 70 mental health counselors embedded within our public schools
- several school penetration efforts where undercover police attempt to enter schools without permission to help schools identify vulnerabilities.
What is next for Greenville? The School Board had a meeting last week and discussed some of our school safety adjustments that have been made in light of what happened in Florida. Next week we will have and a discussion on School Safety measures within the Committee of the Whole.
School safety isn’t a one-size fits all. It is critical that Greenville law enforcement and Greenville education leaders create a plan to tackle this issue in a way that works best for our students and families. I will be requesting that the school board will form a School Safety Policy committee to review these state and national recommendations, compare those recommendations to the practices we currently have in place, and create some local and state policy recommendations.