YORK COUNTY, SC (WBTV) - A South Carolina lawmaker from York County has introduced a bill to enhance the number of School Resource Officers in each public school. He says it stems from the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla. in which 17 people were killed.
Representative John King (D-District 49) introduced the bill on Feb. 20, which was later referred to the committee of labor, commerce, and industry.
It would require all public schools to have one school resource officer (SRO) for every 500 students. You can view the version of the bill here.
"There needs to be a way to protect the children of South Carolina, we do not need for what happened in Florida to happen here in South Carolina," Rep. King said. "I think that schools that only have one or dos school resource officers put our children in harm's way."
"Many people may question the cost of that, but I also question the cost of one life," King said.
According to the bill, the means to require this of school districts by July 1, 2018, will be identified. Right now, it is unclear whether the state budget would fund this change.
"We will look at ways of making sure that it is funded either through the school districts or through the state budget," King said. "It may not be every 500, it may have to be every 1,000, but it will at least begin the conversation to safeguard our schools here in South Carolina."
WBTV gathered how many SROs are within each school district in our area right now, plus how many SROs would be needed if the legislation is passed.
Here is a breakdown of what the SROs cover in each district:
In Rock Hill City Schools there are 18,000 students in the district, there are eight SROs that cover the district. Six of those SROS are provided by Rock Hill Police, two are provided by the York County Sheriff's Office. There is one SRO assigned to each high school and each middle school in the district. The SROs are also assigned to an elementary school in which they check in on periodically. If the new legislation is passed, Rock Hill City Schools would need 36 SROs total.
In York School District 1 there are 5,300 students and three SROs. The York Police Department provides the three officers. One officer is assigned to York Comprehensive High School, one is assigned to York Middle School and one is assigned to the York One Academy. If the new legislation is passed, York School District 1 would need ten SROs total.
In the Clover School District, there are 7,800 students and five SROs total. The York County Sheriff's Office provides four SROs to cover Clover High School, Oak Ridge Middle, and Clover Middle School. There is one Clover Police Officer assigned to Blue Eagle Academy. If the new legislation is passed, the school district would need 16 SROs.
The Fort Mill School District is made up of 14,500 students. Currently, there are seven SROs; six from the Fort Mill Police Department and one from the Tega Cay Police Department. The district also contracts four Private security officers from Defender Services, a private security entity. If the new legislation is passed there would need to be 29 SROs.
In Lancaster County, there are 13,000 students total and eight SROs assigned to that area. There is one SRO that covers Indian Land High School and Indian Land Middle School. There is one SRO assigned to Andrew Jackson High School and Andrew Jackson Middle School. There is also one SRO for Buford High School and Middle School. There are three SROs assigned to Lancaster High School. All SROs are expected to periodically check in with the elementary schools. The eight SROs come from the Lancaster County Sheriff's Office, the Lancaster Police Department and a private security company. If the new legislation is passed, the school district would need 26 SROs.
In Chester County, there are 5,300 students. The school district says there are three SROs provided by the Chester County Sheriff's Office and seveb School Security Officers (SSOs). They say a school security officer is an armed officer from Defender Services, a private security entity. If the new legislation is passed the district would need to have ten SROs, it is unclear whether an SSO would suffice under the state law.
In Chesterfield County, there are 7,200 students within the district. The Sheriff's Office provides seven SROs, one for each high school and middle school. If the new legislation is passed the school district would need to have 14 SROs.
Local law enforcement and education leaders say funding and manpower are two challenges that would come up in passing this bill.
For the Rock Hill Police Department, it costs roughly $110,000 to hire a new officer. With the requirement reaching to 36 officers, that would cost nearly $4 million in Rock Hill alone.
In Lancaster County, the school district pays for the SROs. Director of Safety and Transportation Bryan Vaughn says funding 26 officers would be tough. It currently pays around $250,000 to have 8 officers there. In the meantime, they are focusing on preparing students and teachers for the worst.
"We're really trying to focus on some of that teacher awareness and teacher training, because most of these school shootings it comes down to what the teachers do and what the students do," Vaughn said.
The other challenge is having enough officers to supply to the schools. Rock Hill Police Public Information Officer Captain Mark Bollinger says the South Carolina Police Academy is already backlogged right now, so it would take a long time before they would be able to hire and get the officers prepared to be on their own.
"If we hire an officer today, it might be eight to teb to twelve months down the road before we get them at the police academy," Captain Bollinger said.