Sumter School District is adhering to a new state law that will introduce required active shooter and intruder drills to public schools each semester, and public schools in Lee and Clarendon counties will also see a stronger police presence on …
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Sumter School District is adhering to a new state law that will introduce required active shooter and intruder drills to public schools each semester, and public schools in Lee and Clarendon counties will also see a stronger police presence on campus through state funding.
The South Carolina General Assembly passed a school safety law last spring after 17 students and teachers were shot to death at Parkland High School in Florida by a former student on Feb. 14. Part of the law, guidelines on which were sent to all South Carolina schools last month, according to the state Department of Education and The Associated Press, requires an active shooter/intruder drill to be conducted at every school each semester in addition to and separate from fire drills.
Sumter's drills will be "developmentally appropriate" for each grade level, according to Shelly Galloway, spokeswoman for the district. Staff will also participate in the drills.
Some school districts are taking additional safety measures.
"All of our schools are equipped with front access security systems, and all visitors to our schools must enter and sign in using Ident-a-Kid with the school office," Galloway said.
She said there are security cameras in every school, and high school students are required to wear IDs "at all times."
"Our joint emergency action plans were developed in accordance with state and federal best practices and in partnership with local public safety professionals," she said. "Law enforcement is a partner in the annual review of our plans, and they evaluate our implementation of emergency drills and provide training for school staff as requested."
Beaufort County Schools are holding three active shooter drills a year instead of the required two, including one during what they call an "inconvenient time," such as during lunch or as students are transferring between classes, spokesman Jim Foster told The State, the AP reported.
Beaufort County high school students are also now required to wear their school IDs at all times during the school day, Foster said.
"It does two things: allows the staff at the school to know whether someone is a student, and if a student is unresponsive, emergency responders can easily know the student's identity," the AP reported Foster said.
In Lexington School District 2, officials are augmenting their monthly intruder drills with a key-card entry system for teachers and staff and installing strengthened glass at some schools.
Richland School District 2 is putting school security staff at its schools that don't have a full-time police officer on campus.
The same law that required the safety drills also set aside $2 million for police officers at schools in poorer districts.
State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced Wednesday which districts will be awarded funding to hire new school resource officers through that part of the law.
Of the more than 60 school districts that applied out of the 81 in the state, Lee County School District and Clarendon County School Districts 1, 2 and 3 were among the 38 selected.
Proviso 1.105 specified that while every district was eligible to apply, the state would prioritize those that "otherwise would lack the adequate resources to hire their own school resource officers."
The state education department was directed to use the most recent index of taxpaying ability as the indicator of ability to pay, with districts with the lowest index receiving priority consideration.
"There is no issue more important than the safety and well-being of our students and teachers," Spearman said in her announcement. "I appreciate the support of the General Assembly in recognizing this and taking a step in the right direction by funding new officers in those districts that have not been able to afford them. We still have a ways to go in meeting our goal for a trained law enforcement officer in every school by 2020, and I remain committed to ensuring this goal becomes a reality."
Sumter's Galloway said the district applied but was not selected. Eight school resource officers serve Sumter School District.
Funding to Lee, Clarendon's three districts and the 34 others throughout the state will go directly to local law enforcement agencies to pay for the cost of a full-time school resource officer, according to Spearman's announcement. Funds cannot be used to "supplant existing resources."
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