Legislation That Improves School Safety
The South Carolina State Legislature closed out their session at the end of June, 2018, with a flurry of activity. Among the many changes coming our way is legislation aimed at protecting our kids. Senate Bill 709, known as The School Safety Bill, and certain other budget provisos are supposed to keep our children more secure while they’re at school.
New Safety Plans
SB 709 now requires that every school district in SC come up with different safety plans for active shooter circumstances, fires, and severe weather. The plans must be in place by July, 2021, and include at least one drill per semester for active shooters or intruders, fire, and severe storms or earthquakes. SLED (South Carolina Law Enforcement Division), the State Fire Marshal, and the South Carolina Department of Education will all work together to develop the required plans, which are subject to review by SC’s Department of Education.
SB 709 was proposed by Senator Greg Hembree of Dillon and Horry counties. Sen. Hembree said that the bill was partially prompted by recent school tragedies in other states, notably the February, 2018, shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida. Hembree characterized the effort to pass the bill as bipartisan: “With the help of House Education Chairman Rita Allison and other members of the House and Senate, we crafted a stronger bill. This is an important step in our ongoing mission to keep our children safe while they learn.”
New Safety Budget Items
Our public schools will also receive funding for more safety resource officers. Placing 590 additional resource officers in schools will cost over $60 million for the first year, according to State Department of Education estimates. Approximately half of our schools already had a resource officer in place as of January, 2017.
Also included in the budget is $2 million to start hiring school resource officers for some of South Carolina’s poorest school districts, which lack them. An additional, temporary proviso in force for one year will waive the $10,000 cap that is imposed on state retirees who work. The proviso will enable retired police officers to take jobs as school resource officers.
Other budgetary items that were passed for our state school system include $15 million for new door locks, metal detectors, security cameras, and life-saving medical equipment. SLED and the Department of Education will also conduct a study regarding the improvement of school security by installing bullet-proof doors, key-card-access doors, the use of student ID cards containing radio frequency ID (RFID) chips, and more mental health services for kids. The funded study is due to be submitted by the end of 2018.
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