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Lawmakers focus on boosting school safety in SC | #schoolsaftey

The Center for School Safety and Targeted Violence would be housed at the old Gilbert Elementary School in Lexington County.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A House Education panel advances legislation Tuesday aimed at boosting school safety and putting a psychologist in every South Carolina School.

Speaker Pro Tempore Rep. Tommy Pope is the lead sponsor of a bill that would create the Center for School Safety and Targeted Violence at the Old Gilbert Elementary School in Lexington County. 

“What this bill basically does is recognizes what sled is already doing and codifies it,” Pope.  

The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) would work with FBI and Homeland Security Agents to train law enforcement officers, including School Resource Officers along with school staff, like bus drivers.

“The more training we can do the more we can prepare teachers, administrators, to help identify what may be a troubled student that later would end up being an active shooter, we want to be able to do that,” said SLED Chief Mark Keel.  

Keel told lawmakers SLED has been doing this training since 2012 thanks to funding from Homeland Security. The agency has trained 115,000 people to date, 31,000 of those being in the last year, according to Keel. 

$2.6 million would be one-time money in the budget to purchase the property from Lexington School District One and to purchase equipment. Staffing and operations would cost the state $1 million annually.

The bill has bipartisan support from Democrats like Rep. Deon Tedder (D-Charleston). 

“There are issues we are together on in South Carolina because at the end of the day it’s our kids that matter and they are our future and we want to provide them a quality education in a safe environment where they feel safe,” said Tedder.

A separate proposal would allow out-of-state psychologists to practice in South Carolina under a temporary License while they obtain additional certification. 

According to the South Carolina Association of School Psychologists, there is one psychologist for every 1,400 students in the state. The national recommendation is one for every 500 students. 

“We need to make it easier to attract all school professionals to the state by easing their way to certification and employment. This bill will go a long way to accomplishing just that,” said Executive Director Lynn Collins.

The bill has bipartisan support and is backed by nearly a dozen organizations, including the Palmetto State Teachers Association. 

“I can tell you in my career that I’ve literally watched those people save the lives of young people,” said Patrick Kelly. “This is something the PTSA thinks is essential First and foremost to keep students safe, but it’s also to help them achieve their academic potential.’

Both proposals now go to the full Education Committee. 

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