Law and Order at School

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

Even in July when students are on summer break, Berkeley County Deputy Randy Goodwin keeps an eye on things at school.

He's been a School Resource Officer for six years.

"Mrs. Osterkamp, what's going on. Hey how are ya, everything's alright? Everything's great yeah."

This is a routine, safety precaution.

But from shootings that occurred just this year, we know SRO's face deadly dangers in keeping students safe.

And Berkeley County Sheriff Duane Lewis says the best defense, is an armed, trained officer.

"Because you're gonna have to have somebody, that's gonna have to intervene and take those necessary steps to protect those students and end that threat," Lewis said."That's what we're trained to do and that's what we will do."

School gun violence has not spared the Lowcountry.

In March 1994, a fight broke out just as school let out at Goose Creek High School.

As the fight ended, someone, who was not a student, pulled out a gun and started shooting.

Three people were hit. One of them was a student.

Michael Spann, a senior, was killed.

Whether it's students being charged for having weapons, drugs or ammo on campus, students being charged for fighting, students accused of threatening other students, or violent situations in the community making their way onto a school campus, law and order is needed at school.

"It's important to me that the parents know that their children are safe in school," Lewis said.

So where are the SROs?

We checked with the seven Lowcountry-area school districts and learned that all either have full time SRO's or armed security officers at all of their high schools and their middle schools.

SRO's at two Williamsburg County high schools also patrol the middle schools.

But when it comes to elementary schools, not one has a full-time trained, armed officer, assigned to every elementary campus.

As of the 2017-18 school year, Charleston County has 49 traditional elementary schools and programs, but only 22 full time SRO's on those campuses.

In Berkeley County, there are 26 elementary schools, but only one has a full time SRO.

And in Dorchester District Two, there are 15 elementary schools, eight have full time SROs.

Smaller school districts have the same challenge, but SRO's or armed officers are available to help patrol those campuses.

Full time safety doesn't come cheap, but some areas are finding the funding to pay for it.

When school starts in August, Dorchester District Two will add three more SRO's at a cost of $150,000 total.

That will mean full-time SRO's for three more elementary schools.

Charleston County approved $1.8 million dollars to put SRO's in all schools as well, bringing its SRO budget to $2.5 million.

Schools have a lot competing for their dollars, but Sheriff Lewis says SRO's are a must.

"I don't think anything can replace the fact that you have an armed deputy sheriff in a school," Lewis said. 

Funding for the officers is provided either entirely by the school districts, or the cost is shared with the law enforcement agencies.

Also, police departments and private security companies also work with school districts. And again, officers who patrol other schools full time, are available if there is an emergency at a nearby elementary campus.

Copyright 2018 WCSC. All rights reserved. 

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