South Carolina establishes school safety center | #schoolsaftey

GILBERT, S.C. (WCSC) – Gov. Henry McMaster held a ceremonial signing Wednesday morning for a bill that establishes a school safety center to better train law enforcement and educators on preventing and responding to safety threats.

The Center for School Safety and Targeted Violence, which House Bill H.3360 establishes, will be housed at the Old Gilbert Elementary School in Lexington County and will provide a training location for law enforcement officers in the form of a real school setting.

The governor called on the General Assembly to approve more money in the state’s budget to improve safety. One goal, he said, is to place an armed certified police officer in every school in the state at a cost of $13.4 million for 175 new school resource officers. In 2018, when the governor made funding SROs a top priority, only 406 public schools in South Carolina had a designated SRO. Currently, 1,109 of the state’s 1,240 public schools have a trained SRO, a release from the governor’s office states.

He said they will also ask for $20 million in grants for the Department of Education for school safety grants to the school districts for use toward safety improvements like upgrading classrooms, internal door locks, and securing entry points.

The executive budget also includes $5 million in non-recurring funds for school mapping systems, which will equip 911 operators with real-time digital maps pinpointing exactly where an emergency or incident is happening on a school campus, which could help first responders get to the scene of the threat faster, the release states.

“They not only have to be safe, they have to know they’re safe. If they have to look over their shoulder and worry the whole time they’re in school, they’re not gonna be able to learn,” McMaster said of students.

He also wants state lawmakers to vote in favor of graduated penalties for illegal gun possession and usage, something he says “doesn’t cost a penny.”

“It needs to be a tougher penalty, a stronger penalty, and less we do that that revolving door is gonna keep spinning,” he said.

McMaster said some of the most dangerous and violent incidents involving shooters happen at schools.

“So how do you guard against that besides having good strong laws and good strong law enforcement? You have to have good training,” McMaster said. “That’s what this school is going to be used for, for law officers, for school administrators, for teachers, for bus drivers, everyone in between to be able to simulate and respond to an active shooter situation in a school and of course that will also transfer to other such buildings and locations.”

Superintendent of Education Ellen Weaver, South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Director Mark Keel, Department of Public Safety Director Robert Woods, and state and local law enforcement officers joined McMaster at the former school.

“If we want our students to achieve their highest expectation, their full potential we know that they have to be able to concentrate on the learning and the instruction that’s happening in the classroom in front of them,” Weaver said. “The bottom line is that we must create environments where teachers feel valued and safe.”

“I think that everyone knows that recent events across the country, show us that we must do all we can to prepare our law enforcement, school personnel, our students, parents and community for these unimaginable events. The Center for School Safety and Targeted Violence will train personnel year-round at an actual school environment, and that was the big advantage to having a facility like this,” Keel said. “We can’t recreate this at the police academy or anywhere else. We can’t recreate long hallways, cafeterias, gyms, stairwells that we have here in a school like this, and that’s what made this environment just the perfect place to conduct this training.”

Keel said the training will include active shooter exercises as well as behavioral threat assessments with two full-time Behavioral Science Unit agents who will work at the facility.

“In an effort to identify issues and those troubled students before there’s a crisis, we’ll provide mental health first aid for children and adults in rescue task force training with our other first responder agencies like our fire and EMS. We’ll do tactical bus assault training, and “stop the bleed” training. We’ll include our community members in that training as well if they would like.”

Keel said he expects the facility to be fully operational within about six months, but said training at the facility had already been underway since about 2017.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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