As Richland School District Two wrapped up another year, we were confronted with yet another deadly mass shooting in our country. It is infuriating to think that people cannot go about their daily lives without the fear of being targeted and attacked. I am writing this letter with profound grief for the people who lost their lives, their families and all of the communities suffering these tragedies. I extend my deepest condolences to these families and communities.
These despicable attacks and acts of violence must end. It does not matter if it is in Texas, New York, neighboring Newberry County or right here in Richland County. This must stop.
We all have to get angry and care enough to join together to change what is happening seemingly much more frequently. We cannot turn a blind eye to these events or just pray that something changes. We all have to come together to get to a solution that will save lives and prevent the senseless slaughter of innocent people.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about how we can make our schools safer in Richland Two. Knowing teachers and students do not thrive in environments where they feel unsafe, making our facilities as safe as possible will always be a top priority.
Young people are losing their lives all around us to gun violence, and guns are being brought into schools. It is clear that we have an issue in our country and in this community. There cannot be a perception that schools are unsafe, without their being a perception the community as a whole is not safe. We as a community are going to have to solve this problem. Business leaders, community activists, parents, students, neighbors, all of us are going to have to figure out a way to curb gun violence that is clearly having an impact on our students.
We have made some significant steps towards our goal of keeping all students, employees and visitors safe and protected while in our buildings. The following are some things that we have done so far to address this issue:
- We recently added 10 School Resource Officers, placing at least one SRO at all of our elementary, middle and high schools.
- We have added additional security officers to daily monitoring shifts at schools.
- We have increased administrative monitors at high schools.
- We have installed bullet resistant glass.
- We have invested in high tech surveillance cameras in school buildings and on buses.
- We are improving our communications notifications.
Additionally, Richland Two and several neighboring districts signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Be SMART Program last December. The MOU encourages responsible gun ownership and safety. Local law enforcement, Prisma Health and Medical University of South Carolina Health-Columbia are also supporting this effort to help parents and other adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent child gun deaths and injuries. Please take a look at the resources available to you at www.BeSMARTforKids.org.
Unfortunately, we have to look at even more security to help our students, staff and visitors feel safe in our schools. The Richland Two Board of Trustees’ Special Committee Meeting of the Whole on Safety and Security has met several times to discuss improvements. We are taking a closer look at adding metal detectors in our schools. While I am not an advocate of metal detectors, I am a child safety advocate and will exhaust all measures to keep schools as safe as possible.
None of us should rest until all of us can feel safe going about our daily lives shopping in a grocery store, learning in an elementary school, attending a concert and worshiping in a church. Let’s work together to keep our dear children and families safe in our community. The weight of these unthinkable atrocities is all of ours to bear and prevent together.
Dr. Baron R. Davis