SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS: What the addition of 10 new SROs means for Richland Two

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Sheriff Leon Lott Image: Alex Tejada/ABC Columbia

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — Some added safety is coming to Richland School District Two.

In December, the South Carolina Department of Public Safety informed the school district and sheriff’s department that a grant for 10 new school resource officers had been approved.

“We’ve been working over the last several years to try to add additional resource officers to our schools. This grant came along at a great time and was a great opportunity for us to accelerate that process in our school district,” said Dr. Baron R. Davis, Richland School District Two superintendent.

The total amount of the grant awarded is more than $900,000, meaning 10 elementary schools in Richland School District Two now have full-time school resource officers.

Superintendent Davis says parents should feel relieved and not worried about their presence in schools.

“If you see their roles and responsibilities primarily to serve as police officers and police students in schools, that could be a problem,” Davis said. “If you see them as a peace officer and a resource to solve problems and create a sense of safety, then that role fits them perfectly.”

“They’re not called deputy sheriffs, they’re called school resource officers because they bring so many resources to the kids and the school,” added Sheriff Leon Lott of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

One of those many resources is an added sense of safety and security for students.

“When something happens at a school, kids don’t hesitate to go to the SRO and tell them what’s going on or what somebody’s got,” Lott said.

Dr. Davis clarifies that administrators deal with lower level offenses, and an SRO would only be involved in a serious issue.

“We have Level One, Level Two and Level Three offenses. A Level Three offense is typically going to be an offense where the law was broken,” the superintendent said. “At that time, the administration would determine the necessary steps to involve a school resource officer.”

In addition to protecting the schools, the SROs will also help kids feel comfortable around law enforcement and provide them with knowledge they wouldn’t otherwise get in the classroom.

“Teach our young people life skills about guns, gangs, violence and drugs. Teachers teach them English, math and science. We teach them life skills,” the sheriff said. “I think it’s very important. If we can reach them at an early age before 14 and teach them how to make good decisions, we can be successful in reducing the violence that we got.”

The new SROs started full-time at the schools on Tuesday.

Categories: Local News, Richland