‘This isn’t a new problem’: Parents, law enforcement meet after guns found at Rock Hill schools

ROCK HILL, S.C. — After three guns were found in three different Rock Hill Schools, district leaders are talking about ways to prevent this from happening again.

Three students are accused of bringing guns into Rock Hill High School, South Pointe High School and Dutchman Creek Middle School, all in the same week.

“I’ve never seen that before. It’s the first time,” said solicitor Kevin Brackett.

In court Sept. 6, officials said one of the students was just released from juvenile justice on another weapons charge. Another one of the students was on probation after a gun-related charge in another part of the state. School officials could not say if the students involved in the incidents will be expelled.

Brackett said the justice system has a role to play when it comes to deterring this type of crime.

″Sending a message and making sure the kids will be held accountable. Kids must be held accountable. They know better in many cases,” he said.

Brackett said schools, law enforcement and parents also have a role to play.

“Parents need to take an active interest in their kids. They need to know what they’re doing, what they’re up to,” he said.

A spokesperson for Rock Hill Schools told Channel 9 that the district is responding to the incidents by increasing random searches.

“Whereas last year, we may have done this every here and there for one or two classes, every once and a while. Now, we are committed to doing this way more frequently to more classrooms,” said Lindsay Machak with Rock Hill Schools.

The district held a special safety forum Monday with parents, students and law enforcement, with the goal of hashing out ideas that will help keep guns out of schools.

“We have a lot of community members stepping up to say, ‘I can help,’ or ‘I can do this’ or ‘Here’s an idea.’ And so we want to give a space where we can hear all of that feedback, take those ideas and maybe implement some of those things,” Macheck said.

The two students who were in court Sept. 6 will remain detained as their cases move forward in court.

‘This isn’t a new problem’

District leaders held an open forum with parents in Rock Hill Monday night in hopes of preventing this from happening again.

The district said parents sent in more than 40 questions before the meeting, and dozens more rolled in during the forum. They all centered around one theme -- protecting student safety.

Emily Darby can’t help but worry about her kids’ safety while they’re at South Pointe High School. She says two automated calls on Aug. 29 put her on high alert.

“Initially, it was not that anything happened at the school,” she said about the first call. “It was then about three hours they called and said it was an incident at the school.”

Rock Hill police say that was no ordinary incident. The department says a school resource officer found a stolen gun in a student’s backpack at lunch. District officials say two more guns were found in Rock Hill schools later that week.

“I feel like they can do more and I feel like preventing the weapons from getting into the classroom is my main concern,” Darby said.

“It sounds crazy -- as sheriff, I’m glad we found three guns,” said York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson. “It’s three guns we took out of the schools, off the streets, that are not going to be used in a crime.”

Tolson, Rock Hill Police Chief Chris Watts and a handful of other community safety leaders gathered at the school district office Monday to address ideas from concerned parents.

The district’s safety and security director pointed to Rock Hill Schools’ growing number of preventative measures: Single-point entry, 2,000 cameras district-wide, and officers placed in all schools.

Parents like Darby say they want to see weapon detectors installed, but Mark Keel with the State Law Enforcement Division said that’s easier said than done.

“If they’re going to be efficient and they’re really going to work, they have to be manned from the time that buildings open to the time it closes,” he said.

Darby said she wants to see change. She wants to put a stop to these issues that have been decades in the making.

“This isn’t a new problem, just finally, they’re talking about it,” she said.

Andrew Jones, who serves as Rock Hill Schools’ safety and security director, says the investigation at South Pointe started with an observant SRO. He notified administration of something suspicious, which led to finding a gun in a student’s backpack.

You can help too. If you see something, say something. You can report any suspicious activity through the district’s tip line at 803-981-1159, or by clicking here.

(WATCH PREVIOUS BELOW: Rock Hill stakeholders set to meet to address guns in schools)