CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A Lowcountry lawmaker has for years pushed fellow state legislators to pass a bill that would place metal detectors in every South Carolina school as the country grapples with school shootings.
While the bill fails to pass every session, Representative Wendell Gilliard (D-Charleston) remains hopeful that his colleagues will toughen up and vote in favor of the measure he believes will save the lives of children.
Bill H.4580 would provide the installation and use of walk-through metal detectors in elementary, middle, and high school buildings and athletic venues across South Carolina.
He said the bill enhances the safety of children while in the classroom by using existing and readily available technology to keep weapons out of schools.
“We use it at the State House, we have it at the Governor’s Mansion, it is in our everyday lives,” said Rep. Gilliard. “When you incorporate the human factor with the technology factor, that is a good failsafe because you now have two entities that are existing that can help prevent if one fails.”
The discovery of guns on school property is not rare in South Carolina. Four students were recently charged after three handguns were found in a student’s backpack at Sedgefield Middle School this month. Administrators at Fort Dorchester High School found a stolen gun inside a student’s backpack back in April.
A spokesman for the Charleston County School District, Andy Pruitt, told News 2 that all CCSD middle and high schools have been issued metal detector wands.
“Liberty Hill Academy and Daniel Jenkins Academy (alternative behavior programs) have walk-through metal detectors, which are used to screen all students at arrival,” said Pruitt.
CCSD’s ‘Search and Safety’ team visits all high schools on a regular basis to conduct random searches, according to Pruitt. He said they use metal detectors as part of their random searches.
Leaders with Dorchester District 2 said they are “constantly exploring options with possibly adding metal detectors.” Berkeley County does not use metal detectors in its schools.
Rep. Gilliard believes it is better to have the metal detectors now rather than needing them later and not having them.
“We are all taught from an early age that ‘actions speak louder than words.’ For too long, our state leaders have sat motionless on the sidelines as our children have become victimized, harmed, and murdered by gun violence in schools. The tools are available to intervene in this terrible circle of pain, death, and grief,” said Rep. Gilliard.
A teenage student was shot and killed at Tanglewood Middle School in Greenville County back in March. Now, a 12-year-old student is facing charges and could be tried as an adult in that attack.
Most notably, 14-year-old Jesse Osborne opened fire on students at Townville Elementary School, not far from Clemson, killing 6-year-old student, Jacob Hall, and injuring three in September 2002. He was apprehended by a volunteer firefighter after his gun jammed on the playground.