ORANGEBURG COUNTY, SC (WIS) - South Carolina politicians have put a price tag on students' safety in public schools; in this year's budget, lawmakers allocated about $17 Million to fund safety equipment and new officers.
School districts must apply for some of $2 million state politicians set aside from the year's budget to pay for School Resource Officers (SROs); the Department of Education is handling the application process and awarding money to districts based on their ability to fund it themselves.
The deadline to apply is August 17. On Wednesday afternoon, Orangeburg Consolidated District 5 sent in their application. Spokesperson Bill Clarke says their priority is to get a fulltime SRO at North Middle High School, which currently does not have one.
They do have a private security company they contract with, but the officers aren't certified.
To explain the need for an SRO, Clarke said, "everything we do in the district is focused on kids. So whether we're talking about academic programs or athletic programs or security programs, the focus is all about what satisfies the needs of kids. Among the most basic needs is to have a safe and secure school facility."
There are four certified SROs in the district of 15 schools.
According to data from the Department of Education, about 625 schools of the state's public 1,203 schools do not have a full-time SRO. Officials say it can cost $100,000 to install a new SRO, so $2 Million would make 20 officers.
Some believe even more taxpayer dollars should fund the safety measure. There were $15 Million from this year's state budget allocated for safety equipment like security cameras and locks for doors.
"When you consider that we're talking about a total of $17 million that basically has been set aside for school safety out of a $8.2 billion budget, then one can argue that's just a d rop in the bucket. So therefore, with such a small pot of money, how do you distribute those funds out?" questioned Rep. Jerry Govan (D- Orangeburg).
Clarke says equipment such as cameras and locks and buzzers are in place in schools.
Nearby, Orangeburg Consolidated District 4 has a system to check-in guests and run background using their driver's license. Parent Lois Preast is one who promotes that kind of security but wants to see more SROs in schools.
"I think there's a resource officer need in every school, not just particular grade levels," Lois Preast said. "It is a must because they're there to beef the security for our students and staff and faculty."
Preast has five children in the district, ages ranging from 10 to 15.
"As a parent, I want to feel comfortable when I d rop my kids off at school. I don't want to have that gut feeling that someone could walk in the building with a gun and just raise havoc and devastation that has happened around our nation," said Preast.
The Department of Education is handling the application process and deciding which schools get an officer.