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Statewide School Safety a Priority for 2015

Georgetown County School District Director of Safety and Risk Management Alan Walters, left, addresses a district safety meeting at the county's Emergency Operations Center.
Georgetown County School District Director of Safety and Risk Management Alan Walters, left, addresses a district safety meeting at the county's Emergency Operations Center.
Improvements to school safety in South Carolina will be a priority in 2015, said Georgetown County School District Director of Safety and Risk Management Alan Walters.
 
The South Carolina School Safety Task Force was created by Act 252 of the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Nikki Haley on June 6, 2014.
 
It is tasked with reporting to the General Assembly no later than Dec. 31, 2014 its proposals for revenue neutral ways to provide for effective school-community partnerships; develop district policies for effective school discipline and mental health intervention; examine intra- and interagency collaboration and suggest ways to improve cooperation. 
 
 Walters testified at a hearing of the S.C. School Safety Task Force in Columbia in November about the need for school districts to work with local and state emergency responders to develop and practice their emergency management plans. The Task Force will present its recommendations to the General Assembly when it convenes in January.
 
“There are 68 recommendations in the report that range from mental health assessments to changes in existing law that would allow for all-hazard drills like lockdowns or tornado drills to be substituted for fire drills every other month,”  said Walters. One recommendation is to have each school district form a Safety and Security Committee consisting of a district administrator or emergency manager, representatives of each public safety agency in the district, and the county emergency preparedness director or designee. 
 
“Our district has been doing that for some time, and we’ve found it to be very productive,” Walters said.
 
As a result of Walters involvement with the Task Force he was invited to work with the State Department of Education on a $359,000 grant it received for Enhancing School Emergency Operations Plans in South Carolina.  The purpose of the grant during the next 18 months is to increase SCDE’s ability to provide training and technical support through reestablishing the S.C. Center for Safe Schools as an online resource and offering regional trainings on crisis management, multi-hazard emergency planning and use of the incident command system. Other participants included representatives from SLED, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, S.C. Emergency Management Department, DSS, DHEC and the Catholic Diocese of S.C. The overall goal is to enable districts to write and exercise a comprehensive emergency management plan.