HICKS COLUMN: School board member turns protecting North Charleston kids into turf fight
Well, somebody didn’t like their Christmas present very much.
Last week, North Charleston decided to put police officers in all the city’s elementary schools. It was Mayor Keith Summey and City Council’s response to the Newtown, Conn., shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.
It was a heartfelt decision — no one even tried to make political hay out of the $1.5 million a year it will cost because you can’t put a price tag on a child’s life.
The city should get an A for effort.
But Charleston County School Board member Elizabeth Moffly is already in the returns line. Moffly has long opposed cops in schools. She thinks the police overstep their bounds, turn run-of-the-mill discipline issues into criminal offenses.
She has a point, but that’s not the point here.
North Charleston is simply thinking about safety and, well, it’s the thought that counts.
Moffly says North Charleston is outside its jurisdiction.
She thinks the school district should have its own security force because, well, the police don’t answer to the school board — and the district too often cedes authority to them.
“The culture of policing students has created a larger social problem,” Moffly told board members in a series of emails over the weekend. “The mentality to punish children for childish behavior and ignore mental health, depression, stress and learning disabilities is educational malpractice and a form of child abuse.”
Moffly’s issue, however, is only tangentially related to North Charleston’s action. The reasoning behind Summey and council’s action was to protect the kids from idiots with assault weapons. Oddly enough, this solution is one put forward by the National Rifle Association — and most Republicans, like Moffly, haven’t warmed to it.
That may be because they know that the real answer is more politically painful and also that this is not a cure-all.
After all, they had armed security at Columbine and Virginia Tech.
If the school district opts to hire its own guards, the board would have more control over school security.
They — meaning we — would have to pay for it, though. And the district can barely afford new textbooks. Never mind that security likely won’t be as effective as regular police officers.
Moffly has graciously offered to allow North Charleston to pay for this security. But the city isn’t likely to foot the bill for something over which it has no control.
So it all comes down to politics.
Other school board members seem ready to sit down and talk. Good. What they ought to do is set aside the jurisdictional squabble, decide who handles what, and let the city help out.
When it comes to the safety of kids, or anyone, politics shouldn’t be a concern.
And that goes for Washington as well as North Charleston.
Reach Brian Hicks at firstname.lastname@example.org or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.