Gilliard brings in law enforcement officers to discuss school safety

Gilliard brings in law enforcement officers to discuss school safety
March 16 17:43 2018 Print This Article

State Representative Wendell Gilliard organized a School Safety Forum Friday at North Charleston City Hall, inviting area law enforcement departments and school security vendors to participate.  Mt. Pleasant Police Chief Carl Ritchie participated, along with representatives from the City of Charleston and City of North Charleston Police Departments.  County Councilman Teddie Pryor and Charleston County School Board members Chris Collins and Kevin Hollingshead were also on hand, as well as Charleston County School District security chief Michael Reidenbach.

Ritchie cited how his department recently assigned officers to serve as Student Resource Officers in eight Mt. Pleasant elementary schools and Oceanside Collegiate Academy, a public charter high school, without any new budget allocations.  He urged the school board members to re-allocate funds to secure the schools.  He said, “You need to find the money – you can’t wait on funding from the state or the federal government to send you the resources.”  Ritchie also expressed the need for better mental health services and for a more efficient system to update the federal background check data base for firearms purchases.

The vendors who participated were Share 911, which provides intruder tracking software to school districts and police departments at no cost, and Lexington, North Carolina-based Point Security, which sells metal detectors for about $5000 apiece and hand-held wands for less than $200 apiece.  All Georgetown County schools currently use metal detectors.  North Charleston Police Department Lieutenant Brian Adams, who coordinates security for all schools within North Charleston, noted that metal detectors would not have stopped the Parkland, Florida school shooter.  He pointed out that many schools have dozens of entrance points.  Burke High School Army JROTC cadets Oran Brown and Alexander Cornell observed that there are many security measures which can be taken now, including locking outside gates after the school day begins.

Gilliard sponsored the School Metal Detector Study Committee (H-4810), which currently sits in the Senate Education Committee.  There is currently no money allocated in the state’s projected $8.2 Billion General Fund budget to purchase metal detectors.  Gilliard and other legislators recently met with Governor Henry McMaster.  He pointed out that everyone entering the Governor’s Mansion and the Statehouse must pass through metal detectors and that schools should have similar security measures.  School board member Collins pointed out that even if the schools all had metal detectors, paying to staff them would be an issue.  Collins said the district is also exploring measures to isolate intruders within the halls.

State Representative Marvin Pendarvis pointed out that the House appointed a School Safety Task Force in 2014 and that the group produced 62 specific recommendations, most of which were never implemented.  Gilliard called for a sense of urgency, stating that the push for better school security needs to “be a movement, not a moment.”