COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Top South Carolina education and law enforcement officials differ on how far state lawmakers should go when they consider protecting students in the wake of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
Chief Mark Keel with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division said all state schools need panic buttons and multiple layers of access, plus armed school resource officers. But not armed teachers, because they already do enough and it could create confusion for responding officers.
"They're presented with people in civilian clothing with firearms. They don't know who is who, and so I think that presents a problem,” Keel said.
Testifying before the Senate Education Committee, South Carolina Education Superintendent Mitchell Zais said a small number of teachers with permits should be able to carry concealed weapons.
"These ideas all hinge on local control, a one size fits all solution may work in one school but not work well in another,” Zais said.
Other ideas debated Thursday included more mental illness training to recognize common characteristics of school shooters, mandating school employees study FEMA's active shooter response guide and getting all police officers trained to go into a school during a shooting, even if there's no backup.
Keel said many officers already have completed that training, but plenty have not.
"We want to train officers in the state on that same method,” Keel said.
"I think we need to look at all of these,” said Senator Wes Hayes, Republican from York County. “It may take some money and hopefully the General Assembly will have the willpower to provide these resources.”