Coalition pickets for school legislation at state house

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Published: Feb. 7, 2023 at 7:49 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - As multiple school districts investigate a string of threats that disrupted schools last week, a coalition for safer schools gathered at the state house on Tuesday morning.

The coalition’s mission is to bring awareness to every aspect of school safety, from responsible gun ownership to cyber security.

The South Carolina Coalition for Safer Schools, founded in August of 2022, is comprised of ten associations which they say represent 30,000 people across the state.

“This isn’t a partisan issue. This isn’t anything other than a common sense, South Carolina issue,” said Patrick Kelly, Director of Governmental Affairs for the Palmetto State Teachers Association.

The coalition said a recent wave of school threats and violence prompted several bills introduced with a focus on keeping children safe.

Tuesday morning’s press conference was attended by Republican Representative Doug Gilliam and Democratic Representative Jermaine Johnson. Both elected officials have sponsored school safety legislation.

One bill introduced this session includes the installation of a center for school safety and targeted violence under the purview of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED).

Another bill could establish a negligent storage law for firearms. This targets parents whose kids can get ahold of their guns.

The final topic of discussion was the state’s ongoing teacher shortage, which the coalition said contributes to school threats.

“What research consistently shows is that the surest way to proactively prevent violence in schools, and threats of violence, is to build meaningful relationships with caring adults. And right now, in South Carolina, too many students are being deprived of those caring relationships because we can’t adequately staff our schools,” continued Kelly.

As it relates to the latest string of email threats, the group pointed out that there is no bill targeting an increase in cyber security.

“This isn’t just a state issue. We need some federal action here as well when we start talking about cyber security because it stretches beyond state borders. But I think that equipping law enforcement with additional tools for these kinds of investigations, where emails are originating from or where the active shooter calls last fall came from, that would certainly be money well spent,” concluded Kelly.

The South Carolina Coalition for Safer Schools said public support is crucial in holding elected officials accountable. For more information on how to get involved, click here.

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