Hundreds of resource officers will soon be deployed in public schools across South Carolina with new funding from the S.C. Department of Education, which hopes to meet a goal of an SRO in every school.
The new SROs will be funded indefinitely by the Education Department, said spokesman Ryan Brown.
A total of $11,864,005 has been awarded to pay for 205 officers across all 79 traditional school districts, the Erskine Charter Institute and S.C. Public Charter School District for the upcoming fiscal year.
SROs are career law enforcement officers who work with schools to ensure a safe learning environment, both among students and from any outside threats. They are armed, and the threat of mass shootings across the country has partly driven the desire to have at least one officer on site at every school.
"School resource officers are a deterrent to violence within the school building and their training and response to crime is an invaluable asset that allows educators to focus on instruction," state Superintendent Molly Spearman said in a release.
Districts will receive funding to hire one to four new SROs, depending on their needs.
Charleston County School District will be able to hire two new officers. Berkeley County School District has been allocated funding for four new officers. Dorchester District 2 will have funding for one officer, and Dorchester District 4 will have the funding for two officers.
"It's wonderful," said Allyson Duke, District 2 chief financial officer.
The district plans to reimburse the funding of a current officer rather than hire a new one. The district already has at least one officer in place at every school.
Duke said the district had applied for this funding from the state in previous years and been rejected on the grounds that their tax base was too high. Now that the funding is automatic, the reimbursement of an officer's funding could save around $60,000 a year.
The district pays the town of Summerville for each officer, additionally receiving officers from North Charleston and paying for some from the county.
Dorchester District 4 Superintendent Morris Ravenell said the new funds are enough to allow each school to have a resource officer.
Some school districts are trying to figure out just how much money they've been allocated and how to hire new officers. Berkeley has at least one SRO in every middle and high school, 28 overall, according to spokesman Brian Troutman. The news of the funding took district officials by surprise, he said.
The Charleston County School District has hired 11 new SROs this school year, provided by the Charleston Police Department and the Charleston County Sheriff's Office. The district contributes more than $2.6 million to fund 69 SROs and off-duty officers across schools, with remaining costs covered by local local law enforcement partners.
In the future, the Education Department also hopes to achieve a mental health counselor in every school. The General Assembly has provided $2.2 million to hire more mental health counselors.
Jenna Schiferl contributed to this report.