Debate sparks over S.C. proposal to arm teachers

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

Loading
SOUTH CAROLINA —

A controversial proposal to arm teachers in South Carolina classrooms is stirring up a lot of debate and conversation around the state, and on social media.

That's exactly what state Rep. Greg Delleney is hoping for -- to get people engaged in the issue.

"I think if this gets the conversation going, then we can see what we need to do here in South Carolina," the Chester Republican said.

The debate took off after Florence Republican Rep. Phillip Lowe pre-filed a bill that would allow teachers to carry guns on campus and in the classroom.

The bill, obtained by Channel 9, only applies to teachers who have a concealed weapons permit. They'd be required to go through a sled training course, and must notify school officials when they have a weapon on campus. The teacher would also have to wear the weapon at all times.

That idea doesn't sit well with Lancaster County School Safety Director Bryan Vaughn.

"There are so many scenarios," he said.

Vaughn is over school district safety, from busing to security to severe weather policies.

"Say the teacher's breaking up a fight, and they drop the gun on the ground by accident, and someone picks it up? The firearm could be left unattended in a purse, a satchel, a coat pocket. A child could get ahold of it," he said.

Instead, Vaughn favors looking at hiring more school resource officers or private security. He said Lancaster County is reviewing all of its security measures in the aftermath of the deadly shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Conn.

One proposal could be adding officers to elementary schools. Currently, they only work at middle and high schools. The district is also looking at each of its buildings, entrances and exits, surveillance cameras, door locks and security personnel.

However, hiring more security officers costs money, and grants for resource officers ran dry years ago. Vaughn said the school district funds its resource officers entirely on its own.

As far as Lowe's bill, it's one of hundreds of bills pre-filed before an upcoming legislative session. Lawmakers told Channel 9 that less than half of those bills ever make it to a vote of the full General Assembly.

Most receive a committee hearing when it's requested and often face dramatic changes. Delleney said that's likely with this bill.

"I doubt it'll make it out (of a committee) in its current form, but it could become some type of security bill," he said.

When asked his opinion of allowing teachers to be armed at school, Delleney seemed to favor having more trained security officers on campuses instead.

"These evil cowards kill themselves when they think they're being close in on," he said. "So the quicker you have a resource officer there, or someone responding to them, the quicker a tragedy or this evil tragedy is going to be over with."

The bill is likely to be heard in the House Judiciary Committee sometime in the next two months.