North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and members of City Council were looking for something they could do. The slaughter of first-graders and staff at Sandy Point Elementary School hit everyone hard.
But they moved a bit too fast in the process. Before deciding to hire police officers for each of the public elementary schools within North Charleston City limits, council first should have conferred with the Charleston County School Board. The board has primary responsibility over the county schools, including those in North Charleston.
The people of Charleston County elect members of the school board to make policy decisions, and ensuring the safety of school children is certainly a key responsibility. But as board member Elizabeth Moffly pointed out, there are more ways than one to address school security, and it is the school board’s role to decide how to do it.
It is altogether appropriate that both the school board and North Charleston City Council take up the issue at their respective next meetings this month.
It’s hard to imagine that the school board would turn down being “given” 21 officers to serve in 21 elementary schools. But if they stay, to whom do the officers report?
Superintendent Nancy McGinley wrote to Mayor Summey to thank him for his “proactive recommendation” and to welcome his “commitment to school safety.”
Board Chairwoman Cindy Coats told North Charleston City Council members that they were doing the right thing. She plans to request legal advice for the school board on the issue of police jurisdiction raised by Mrs. Moffly.
This isn’t Mrs. Moffly’s first beef with the notion of police officers in schools. She is concerned that their involvement in schools has criminalized students for behavior that could be handled by the school administration.
She also doesn’t like that students are questioned by police without parents’ permission.
Her recommendation is that the district establish its own security force, which would answer to the school board.
Mrs. Moffly’s suggestion deserves the board’s consideration, as does Mrs. Coats’ assertion that the police presence is beneficial.
Parents should have an opportunity to speak to the situation — are police officers a comfort or are they inappropriate? And North Charleston should be invited to give its side.
In the final analysis, all should have the same goal: the safety of Charleston County students.