Parents across the nation demanded safer schools after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in December 2012.
Incidents in Charleston schools
These are the incidents for which Charleston police were called to elementary schools last year. None of them involved the school patrol teams. The report does not say how many incidents involved students, although it's apparent that many or most did not.
Abundant Life (Capers Elementary): two alarms
Angel Oak: one 911 hangup, two abuse, one agency assist, four alarms, two disturbances, one miscellaneous, one officer assist, two public service calls, two thefts
Ashley Hall: one agency assist, three alarms, one disturbance, two indecency, four suspicious person, two traffic accidents
Ashley River Creative Arts: one 911 hangup, one abuse, seven alarms, three animals, one traffic violation, one traffic accident
Blessed Sacrament: one animal, one city ordinance violation
Buist Academy: two 911 hangups, three administrative calls, one suspicious person, one traffic accident
Charleston Catholic: one 911 hangup, one agency assist, three alarms, one animal
Charleston Christian: one public service call
Charleston Day: one miscellaneous
Charleston Progressive: two agency assists, one alarm, one domestic, one suspicious person, one traffic accident
Charleston Seventh Day Adventist: one traffic violation, two miscellaneous, one suspicious person
Charter Development Academy: one agency assist, two disturbances, one traffic violation, one sexual assault
Cooper School: one traffic violation, one suspicious person
Daniel Island School: seven alarms, one assist motorist, one disabled motorist, two traffic violations, one miscellaneous, one public service call
Drayton Hall Elementary: two 911 hangups, four alarms, two animals, one DUI, two traffic violations, one suspicious person, one traffic accident, one vandalism
Harbor View Elementary: one agency assist, one disturbance
James Island Christian: one traffic violation, one miscellaneous, one suspicious person, one trespassing
James Simmons Elementary: one 911 hangup, one abuse, one disabled motorist, one miscellaneous, one suspicious person, one traffic accident
Mason Prep: two 911 hangups
Meeting Street Academy: one traffic violation, one public service call, one suspicious person
Memminger Elementary: eight 911 hangups, one administrative call, three agency assists, three alarms, one disturbance, one domestic, two sexual assaults, one suicide attempt or threat, two suspicious persons, three traffic accidents, one weapon
Mitchell Math & Science: two abuse, four agency assist, one alarm, two disturbances, two fraud, three miscellaneous, two public service calls, one theft, two traffic accidents, one trespassing
Murray-LaSaine Elementary: one abuse, two alarms, one disturbance, three miscellaneous, one suicide attempt or threat, two traffic accidents, one weapon
Nativity School: one traffic violation
Oakland Elementary: one 911 hangup, one administrative call, three alarms, two traffic violations, two suspicious persons, one traffic accident.
O'Quinn: one alarm, one traffic violation, two suspicious persons
Orange Grove Elementary: two miscellaneous, two traffic accidents
Pattison's Academy (PACE): one agency assist, two alarms, one fraud, one miscellaneous
Porter-Gaud: two 911 hangups, one alarm, one animal, two traffic violations, one harassment, two miscellaneous, one suspicious person, one theft, one traffic accident
Riverpointe Christian Academy: two traffic accidents
Sanders-Clyde Elementary: three 911 hangups, one abuse, one agency assist, four alarms, one animal, two disturbances, one sexual assault, one suicide attempt or threat, two traffic accidents
Springfield Elementary: two 911 hangups, one alarm, one animal, two disturbances, one traffic violation, two traffic accidents
St Andrews School of Math & Science: one 911 hangup, one administrative call, three alarms, two traffic violations, two suspicious persons, one traffic accident
Stiles Point Elementary: five 911 hangups, one traffic violation, one miscellaneous, one suicide attempt or threat, one traffic accident
Stono Park Elementary: one agency assist, one public service call, one traffic accident
Trinity Montessori: one administrative call, one suspicious person, one trespassing
Source: Charleston Police Department
The issue hit home two months later in Charleston when Alice Boland, a former mental patient, showed up outside Ashley Hall, a private school on the peninsula, and attempted to fire a pistol at a staff member who came outside the fence to question her.
Incidents in North Charleston schools
The number of incidents in North Charleston schools in Charleston County dropped from 181 the first half of the year to 91 the second half; police credit the officers for the drop.
Most students involved in incidents were not charged with a crime.
Those students who were charged were released to their parents for a family-court appearance, which often involved a diversion program that would clear their records when completed.
Incidents: 296 (272 for 15 Charleston County schools, 24 for four Dorchester County schools)
Students charged: 28 (26 in Charleston County, two in Dorchester County)
Pepperhill Elementary: 53
1st half: 23 - one disorderly conduct, one disturbing schools, two second-degree assault*, nine third-degree assault, one larceny, two weapons violations, seven unspecified offenses
2nd half: 30 - 22 third-degree assault, one larceny, seven unspecified offenses
Burns Elementary: 40
1st half: 35 - seven disorderly conduct, five disturbing schools, 19 third-degree assault, one malicious damage to property, three unspecified offenses
2nd half: 5 - one disturbing schools, two third-degree assaults, two weapons on school property
Goodwin Elementary: 34
1st half: 18 - one disorderly conduct, five disturbing schools, five third-degree assault, two interfering with a school bus, two larcenies, two weapons on school property, one unspecified offense
2nd half: 16 - one disturbing schools, five third-degree assault, one larceny, one weapon on school property, eight unspecified offenses
Memminger Elementary: 23
1st half: 23 - seven disorderly conduct, eight disturbing schools, four third-degree assault, one larceny, two weapons on school property, one unspecified offense
2nd half: no longer in North Charleston
Chicora Elementary: 20
1st half: 16 - two disorderly conduct, one disturbing schools, eight third-degree assaults, five weapons on school property
2nd half: 4 - two third-degree assault, one interfering with a school bus, one weapon on school property
Corcoran Elementary: 18
1st half: 12 - six disorderly conduct, two second-degree assault, one third-degree assault, one drug violation, two larceny
2nd half: 6 - two disorderly conduct, two third-degree assault, two malicious damage to property
Hunley Park Elementary: 17
1st half: 12 - five disorderly conduct, one second-degree assault, four third-degree assault, one larceny, one unspecified offense
2nd half: 5 - one disorderly conduct, five third-degree assault, one larceny, one weapon on school property
Hursey Elementary: 11
1st half: 10 - nine disorderly conduct, one disturbing schools
2nd half: 1 - one disorderly conduct
James Simmons Elementary: 10
1st half: 10 - two disorderly conduct, four disturbing schools, three third-degree assault, one weapon on school property
2nd half: no longer in North Charleston
North Charleston Elementary Summit Program: 10
1st half: 3 - one disorderly conduct, one third-degree assault, one weapon on school property
2nd half: 7 - one disorderly conduct, one disturbing schools, four third-degree assault, one malicious damage to property
North Charleston Creative Arts Elementary: 9
1st half: 6 - three disorderly conduct, two interfering with a school bus, one larceny
2nd half: 3 - two third-degree assault, one weapon on school property
Mary Ford Elementary: 8
1st half: 5 - one disorderly conduct, two third-degree assault, one weapon on school property, one unspecified offense
2nd half: 3 - one third-degree assault, one drug violation, one larceny
Pinehurst Elementary: 5
1st half: 2 - one third-degree assault, one larceny
2nd half: 3 - three third-degree assault
Midland Park Elementary: 8
1st half: 4 - one disorderly conduct, one first-degree assault, two third-degree assault
2nd half: 4 - one third-degree assault, one malicious damage to property, two larceny
Dunston Elementary: 3
1st half: 1 - one third-degree assault
2nd half: 2 - one weapon on school property, one unspecified offense
Lambs Elementary: 2
1st half: 0
2nd half: 2 - one larceny, one unspecified offense
School of the Arts Elementary: 1
1st half: 1 - one larceny
2nd half: 0
Charleston Progressive Academy: 0
1st half: 0
2nd half: 0
Dorchester County: 24
Incidents were not reported by school or type. The four schools are Eagles Nest, Fort Dorchester, Joseph R. Pye and Windsor Hill Arts Infused.
*Third-degree assault is the least serious offense. Second-degree assault indicates the attacker inflicted or could have inflicted injuries. First-degree assault indicates the injuries could have been serious.
North Charleston put a full-time police officer in every public elementary school in the city the next month. Most of the public reaction was positive, but some community leaders questioned whether children who used to get sent to the principal's office would now end up with a criminal record after an encounter with a cop.
Charleston took a different approach: The city assigned six teams of officers to patrol public and private schools at random and check security issues. The School Security Response Team started in August 2013 and just finished its first school year.
No attacks at elementary schools have been reported anywhere in the nation since Sandy Hook in Connecticut. School shootings at high schools and colleges, however, have continued seemingly unabated in the past 18 months, with the most recent resulting in two deaths last Tuesday at a high school outside Portland, Ore. The website everytown.org, which advocates for an end to gun violence, lists 74 shootings at schools since Sandy Hook.
Charleston and North Charleston each is spending more than $1.6 million a year for random patrols and officers at grade schools. It's intended as a deterrent, not a guarantee that a shooting won't happen or can be prevented. But police and school officials say what each is getting for its money is worth the cost: the chance to turn young lives around and an extra layer of security to reassure frightened parents.
"We want people to be able to send their kids to school and not have to worry," said Charleston officer Chris Koegler, who patrols several West Ashley schools.
Making a difference in North Charleston
Burns Elementary School is on Dorchester Road near Interstate 26 in North Charleston. It's a neighborhood where students are familiar with cops, and usually not in a good way. They've seen parents, relatives and neighbors hauled off to jail. One student told teachers how he hid behind a bedroom door when SWAT officers burst into his house.
Officer Eric Jourdan patrolled the area for years. He came out of retirement last year to become a cop at Burns.
"It's been the most rewarding job that I've had," he said recently.
A rambunctious 6-year-old named Dashawn Fuller-Ferguson walked into Jourdan's office wanting a promised birthday present. A teacher stood just outside the door keeping an eye on him. Jourdan gave him a police badge sticker, a super student medal and some pencils. Dashawn grinned and scooted off.
"When I started here, I tried to think of something to break down the barriers," Jourdan said. "My children are exposed to a lot. I've got to sell these kids that I'm not the enemy."
Jourdan was hired to discourage a shooter, but his biggest challenge has been dealing with irate parents who come into the school yelling over a perceived injustice. Rough home lives spill over into the classrooms. He said he has had to charge several students with assault, including a 10-year-old girl who went on a rampage attacking students, staff and then him. All were sent to family court and put in diversion programs, which means their records will be cleared if they finish counseling and other requirements.
The 10-year-old would have encountered an officer even if Jourdan had not been stationed at the school, Principal Lynn Owings said. Several staff members are trained to deal with problem students, but the staff calls 911 to send an officer when a student becomes too violent, she said.
The number of incidents at Burns dropped dramatically after Jourdan started. The police department reported 35 the first half of the year and five the second half.
"We're extremely fortunate to have him, because our community overall has such a poor perception of the reason for law enforcement," Owings said. "It's worth the investment. Building that relationship with students when they are young will change their lives forever.
"It's bigger than what we're seeing at this point. We have to change this community. We have to. These are the most needy families."
North Charleston police are stationed in 19 grade schools, 15 in Charleston County and four in Dorchester County. Their stated goal when they started was to prevent another Sandy Hook, but they also knew they were there to change lives, Deputy Chief Scott Deckard said.
The initial cost of putting officers in the schools was $1.65 million for salaries and vehicles, according to the city. Annual salaries total $971,500, which includes health care and benefits. Their cars are replaced every five years at a cost of about $35,000 each.
The police department compiled incident figures for Charleston County elementary schools. The incidents include assaults, disorderly conduct, disturbing schools, interfering with a school bus and weapons on school property.
Most students involved in incidents were not charged. For instance, of the 272 incidents that were reported for Charleston County elementary schools, 26 students were charged and turned over to their parents for an appearance in family court.
Of the 24 incidents reported for the four Dorchester County schools, two students were charged.
The report notes that the number of incidents dropped sharply the second half of the year, from 181 to 91 in Charleston County schools. Some of the drop can be attributed to Memminger and Simmons moving back to Charleston; between them, the two schools had 33 incidents the first half of the year. But Deckard attributes the drop mainly to the officers in the schools.
"I firmly believe that's what it is," he said.
The first half of the year covers August through December 2013, the second January through April 2104. Statistics were not available for May 2014.
The reaction from parents to the cops in elementary schools has been generally positive.
A half dozen parents and grandparents picking up children at Pepperhill Elementary School the last week of school were asked their opinion. All of them said they were happy with having an officer at the school off Ashley Phosphate Road.
"I have been extremely pleased," said Larry Thames, who was picking up his grandson. "I feel the children as a whole are much safer."
He said the officer helped his grandson with some behavior problems.
"He was able to give some friendly, corrective instruction, not only to my grandson but some other children as well," Thames said. "He has a positive impact on the children. It's a positive relationship between the officer and the students."
The most vocal criticism to the idea of putting police officers in grade schools came from Citizens United for Public Schools, an umbrella group that includes the Charleston branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
"An increased police presence may aggravate the situation in some schools and make our schools look and operate more like detention facilities than like places of learning," Dot Scott, president of the Charleston chapter of the NAACP, said shortly before North Charleston stationed cops in grade schools.
When asked recently if she had changed her position now that the cops have been there a while, she said she had not but was open to change.
She still has concerns about officers handling discipline problems.
"I don't think our position has changed," she said. "I still feel like discipline in school needs to be handled by trained counselors."
On the other hand, it's possible that some school-resource officers are having a positive impact on young students, she said.
"It all depends on the officer and the relationship with the students and parents," she said. "If those resource officers have somehow bonded with the children and they see him as a protector and not somebody who was out to get them, that could be good."
She said she hopes to have a community meeting to find out what parents think of cops in schools.
Another layer of security in Charleston
The cops patrolling Charleston schools focus on security and try to stay out of the way of students, especially in the public schools.
Charleston set up six teams of three officers each who patrol public and private schools. The department hired 19 new officers and transferred 18 patrol officers and a supervisor to the school beat.
The officers cost just over $2 million the first year. That included $886,065 for salaries, $360,000 for health care and benefits, $358,467 operating expenses, and $437,000 for vehicles. Taking out the initial cost for the new vehicles , the officers should cost about $1.6 million next year.
The officers underwent additional training in handling school emergencies.
"We can respond almost immediately," Lt. Mike Thomas said.
The school district started beefing up security in public schools several years before Sandy Hook, according to Jeff Scott, director of security and emergency management for the Charleston County School District.
For instance, teachers started holding classes behind locked doors in 2006. That directive came after an incident in which six female students were taken hostage at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, Colo., in September 2006, which was followed the next month by the killing of five elementary and middle-school girls at West Nickel Mines School in Lancaster County, Pa.
In Charleston County, door locks were upgraded, vestibules were set up to hold visitors until they were cleared, fences were reinforced, communication systems were improved.
The officers are another layer of security in a well-fortified system of defense, Scott said.
Officer Chris Koegler is one of three cops who patrol Springfield and Drayton Hall in West Ashley. Walking through the halls at Springfield checking doors recently, he pointed out that the average mass shooting incident lasts seven to 10 minutes.
"If we can cut that down to three minutes, lives will be saved," he said.
He tried to stay out of the way of students walking through the halls, but some couldn't resist waving or leaning over to touch him.
"We try to discourage touching, but what can you do?" he said.
Koegler also patrols several private schools. Several took the advice of officers and installed cameras and buzzers on the front doors, he said.
"The biggest changes have been in the private schools," he said. "A lot of these places weren't even used to locking doors. I think we've made a lot of progress on a different level than we originally thought."
Officer Mark Rosborg patrols downtown schools. He points out that if an Alice Boland showed up outside a school now, she would deal with a police officer instead of a staff member.
Charleston Day School is in the middle of a downtown neighborhood, and it's common for vagrants to mess around the fence and gate, Headmaster Brendan O'Shea said. It's nice to be able to call an officer to deal with them now, he said.
Just a few years ago, a parent could walk straight into a classroom to drop off a child's lunch. A few parents complained when the school put up a locked front gate a couple years ago, but nobody complained when they added more bars and put up a second gate in the middle of campus last summer, he said.
"I know that our parents feel that our children are that much safer," O'Shea said. "It just gives them an extra sense of security."
Rosborg doesn't have a set schedule as he patrols the downtown schools. Another officer on his team could show up as soon as he leaves.
"Most mass shooters plan an event ahead of time," he said. "Our randomness is the biggest deterrent."
The school officers didn't handle any criminal incidents involving students at elementary schools last year. School staff calls 911 for criminal incidents with students, and regular patrol officers - not the school officers - respond, supervisors said.
For instance, when men showed up outside Ashley Hall on two separate occasions in March harassing students, regular patrol officers handled them.
The grade-school officers reported seven arrests last year, all of them adults. For instance, a man seen illegally parked in Wragg Square near Charleston Progressive Academy was found to be in a stolen car. A man parked near Ashley Hall school was found to have a family-court warrant.
When students required police intervention, regular patrol officers were called to handle it.
The department reported 268 calls to public and private Charleston elementary schools last year. The report didn't specify how often police were called to deal with students, but the nature of the incidents indicates that it wasn't very often.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.
Officer Mark Rosborg, Charleston Police Department, is one of three officers tasked with patrolling schools on the peninsula in response to calls to make schools more secure after the 2012 mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. Rosborg checks the doors of Charleston Day School.×
North Charleston school resource officer Eric Jourdan rewards kindergartner Dashawn Fuller-Ferguson, 6, with a police badge sticker, a medal and some pencils for his birthday at Burns Elementary School.×
Children surround officer Rosborg last month as he makes his rounds at Charleston Day School.×