YORK COUNTY, S.C. -- For the first time ever, state leaders in South Carolina held a public discussion about the safety of schools.
The forum, led by Governor Henry McMaster, was held Thursday at the University of South Carolina Alumni Center in Downtown Columbia.
During the three-hour forum, dozens of education leaders and students had an opportunity to share ideas on ways they believe top leaders in the state can improve security at schools.
Governor McMaster said he believes the first step in improving security is to place trained law enforcement officers at all schools in the state.
NBC Charlotte’s Billie Jean Shaw asked McMaster if he was backing down on the idea of armed teachers in the classrooms.
“The first is arming not the teachers,” Gov. McMaster said. “A teacher does not have or most school personnel does not have the kind of experience as a trained officer would.”
Last week, McMaster told NBC Charlotte he supported a bill that would allow armed teachers in classrooms, saying, “if it came across my desk, I would sign it.”
McMaster now suggesting all S.C. schools be armed with trained officers instead.
“That is the person that needs to be there,” McMaster said. “That could be done quicker and is the most effective way and the least expensive way to provide safety.”
In this year’s executive budget, the governor requesting $5 million to fund a pilot program to place certified law enforcement officers at all schools throughout the state.
Jacorie McCall, a student at Dillion High School supports the proposal but has reservations.
“I would like to see the state fund it but also talking to more students like me, ” McCall said.
McCall said Dillion High School was built in the 1970s and is concerned about adequate funding for schools in rural areas. McCall says in addition to school resource officers, technology needs to be upgraded to make it harder for strangers to walk on campus.
“Something I would like to see done is buzzing when you come into the front building," McCall said. “Every day, we have an issue where people are walking on campus that’s not supposed to be there.”
Thursday, Superintendent Spearman announced the department is pushing for more mental health training in schools. Spearman now promising mandatory training for teachers to identify at-risk students.
“We are going to immediately develop those training modules. It could be face to face or virtual modules,” Spearman said.