A day after calling for a new emphasis on schools and education in her State of the State Address, Gov. Nikki Haley has weighed in on the hot-button issue of school safety.
A bill with bi-partisan support has been filed in the Senate that would make it mandatory for every public school in the state of South Carolina to have a School Resource Officer. The bill is sponsored by Sens. John Courson (R-Richland and) Nikki Setzler (D-Lexington).
View the bill here.
But Haley said, she would prefer that the schools themselves decide if they want to deploy a resource officer.
Through spokesman Rob Godfrey, Haley said, "As the mother of two Lexington County public school students, the governor, like parents across the state, cares deeply about the safety of our students — and she would certainly support school districts that decide student resource officers are needed in their communities but would also support districts that don't think officers are right for their area. This is a school district, not a state, decision."
Last week, SLED Chief Mark Keel appeared before the Senate Education Committee on the subject of school safety. He said that most middle and high schools have a School Resource Officer — basically, a police officer —in the building, while most elementary schools do not.
Keel said it was his opinion that the best way to prevent another mass killing from occurring in a school was to make sure that every building had a School Resource Officer.
State Superintendent Mick Zais agreed with Keel on the importance of School Resource Officers but, like Haley, felt safety issues should be made locally.
Much like the rest of the country in the wake of the Newtown massacre, communities across South Carolina are revisiting the issue of gun violence. In Pickens County, additional school resource officers seemed to have some support. Greenville County announced Thursday that it would begin security patrols at all elementary schools. And in Summerville, a citizen has proposed an assault weapons ban. But, demonstrating how divided the state is on the issue, the Charleston County Sheriff said he would not enforce new gun laws from the Obama Administration.
Haley's position would appear to differ slightly from that of the NRA, which called for armed guards in every school as a way to keep children safe. Haley also did not advocate for arming teachers.
According to a story in The State, a school resource officer in every school would cost between $30-40 million.