The South Carolina Coalition for Safer Schools is adding a sixth member to its group — Charleston-based The Safe Schools Project.
The nonpartisan, grassroots advocacy supports school safety by amplifying the voices of teachers, students and school staff.
"We believe that no effective discussion of school safety is possible without the input of those who work in school buildings every day," said Patrick Martin, a spokesman for the project.
The broader group, South Carolina Coalition for Safer Schools, was formed because of school shootings and violence sweeping the nation. On May 24, a mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school killed 19 students and two teachers. One March 31, a twelve-year old shot one of his classmates, Jamari Jackson, in a Greenville County middle school.
South Carolina had its highest number of school shootings in 47 years in 2021, according to a Post and Courier analysis. Over half of the nine shootings occurred in the fall and winter of 2021.
The paper also discovered that the number of weapons in South Carolina schools doubled in three years ending in the fall of 2021, according to an analysis of hundreds of thousands of school referrals the paper obtained through a Freedom of Information Act Request.
The coalition was formed over the summer between Palmetto State Teachers Association, South Carolina Counseling Association, South Carolina Association of School Psychologists, Institute for Child Success and the South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
It recently released its recommendations for how to curtail school violence. The list includes prioritizing in-school factors such as having accessible mental health resourcing and making sure school are properly staffed.
Outside of schools, the coalition recommended monitoring students' social media and making sure they participate in community events.
Patrick Kelly, a spokesman for one of the groups involved in the coalition, said one of its main goals is to make politicians more aware of school safety issues. He welcomes The Safe School Project to the organization.
"The Safe Schools Project is the result of grassroots efforts by South Carolina educators to enhance the safety of children, and their addition to the Coalition for Safer Schools will greatly enhance the ability of the coalition to elevate the voices of teachers in the formation of policies to address the in-school and out-of-school factors that contribute to violence against children," he said.