Federal law enforcement agencies were in Columbia Tuesday to talk school violence, specifically what law enforcement agencies and schools can do prevent it.
The United States Secret Service has been expanding its threat assessment teams since Columbine. The shooting prompted the agency and the U.S. Department of Education to study school violence.
The Secret Service has since been using that study to teach law enforcement and educators across the country how to prevent targeted violence in schools.
At Tuesday’s session held at the Koger Center, dozens of law enforcement departments across the state were in attendance, including deputies with the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’ve been doing a lot with school safety. But this is kind of different in where we look at what happens maybe before an active shooter are a sign there or there signs there,” explained Pickens Co. Sheriff Rick Clark.
The session focuses on identifying those warning signs.
“If you don’t know what a threat looks like then everything is a threat,” said Governor Henry McMaster, who delivered opening remarks.
Law enforcement and educators learned step by step how to examine questionable behavior and identify stressors that may trigger a student to use violence.
Special Agent John Hirt with USSS outlined the goal of Tuesday’s discussion, “The key here is to identify the threat and then assess whether it’s viable or not and if it is then you have to manage that threat before it turns into violence.”
The Targeted School Violence Prevention Plan is a guideline officials say is needed now more than ever given the increase in violence we’ve seen in our schools.
Sheriff Clark continued, “These kids who may have troubled homes or mental illness which is a big thing now so we’re trying to take this holistic approach to preventing the shooting before they even happen.”
Here in South Carolina, the governor and general assembly have been working to make sure there is a school resource officer and mental heath counselor in every school in the state.
Currently, schools in South Carolina are required to have a safety plan and practice active shooter drills.