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Educators speak up about ongoing outbreak of school threats

Published: Dec. 10, 2021 at 4:18 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. - Amid a string of threats at schools across the region, there’s a heightened sense of concern surrounding school safety.

According to the South Carolina Department of Education, there were 48 incidents of possession of a firearm or explosive in South Carolina schools during the 2020-2021 school year.

This year, SC for Ed reports that there have been at least 40 reported incidents where either a weapon has been found on a campus or a threat has been made against a school.

Among those incident, three students were injured in a shooting on the campus of Orangeburg-Wilkinson High School in August.

SC for Ed released a statement on Thursday that read in part, “It is clear that swift and meaningful action must be taken by state and district leaders to reduce the number of firearms, gun violence, and threats on our school campuses.”

The organizations believes more mental health resources available to schools is part of the solution.

“The central message that we’re trying to get across now is that the kids are not alright,” said Nicole Walker, an SC for Ed board member and Richland School District 2 teacher. “They’ve just come out of a pandemic. There was a lot of uncertainty. A lot of kids lost family members, lost family friends, there’s economic uncertainty and so you send kids back into a school environment and ask them to just kind of pick up where they left off 18 months. That’s just not realistic.”

SC for Ed says the Legislature should provide districts with more school psychologists, social workers, guidance counselors to help children process trauma.

“You see what happens when things get bottled up,” Walker said. “It’s going to come out one or the other and it seems to be coming out in really terrible ways recently.”

State Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman said this week that South Carolina must do more on the issue of school safety. She said she’s in constant communication with state leaders about ways to continue to support teachers and families.

“Students have sort of forgotten their discipline rules at school,” she said. “Educators are having to work extra hard with them. So we want to support our principals, our teachers in that. And we’ve got to work closer with families. Parents need to know that we love their kids and we want their children to be in our schools and we want to work with families. So it is a partnership that we need to make sure is going on.”

The South Carolina Department of Mental Health says you should be open and honest with your children about these types of incidents, but the most important thing is to start the conversation and keep it going.

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