Colleton County School Board addresses safety concerns

Colleton County school leaders focused on community concerns about classroom safety for much of Tuesday night’s school board meeting.
Published: Nov. 29, 2022 at 10:48 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 29, 2022 at 11:21 PM EST
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WALTERBORO, S.C. (WCSC) - Colleton County school leaders focused on community concerns about classroom safety for much of Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

The concerns come after one student was arrested and two others taken into custody at Colleton County High School last week after a fight and the discovery of a handgun in a student’s car.

District leaders laid out specific numbers on disciplinary action for the school year and how the schools are handling recent events.

There have been 3,123 total referrals given out from teachers and staff since the start of this school year. District Safety and Security Coordinator Wesley McNeely said level one offenses, such as having a cell phone out in class or not following the dress code, have increased since last year.

“It’s not just a Colleton County or Lowcountry, or even South Carolina issue. It’s a problem nationwide,” McNeely said.

Of the total number of referrals, 57% are Level 1. Level 2 offenses, which pertain to disruptive behavior that can be harmful to one’s self or others, accounted for 41.1%. The remaining 1.8% are Level 3 offenses, which include violent behavior that requires law enforcement.

This school year, the district has handed out 57 Level 3 offenses.

School Board member Daryl Erwin asked how many guns on the district’s campuses are enough to say that the district has “a serious problem.” The answer he received was “one.” When he then asked how many the district has seen this school year, he was told, “two.”

“So then we have a serious problem in our school district,” Erwin said.

Superintendent Dr. Vallerie Cave says they are working diligently with area law enforcement including the State Law Enforcement Division on these issues. She says the violence in the schools could come from gang-related violence happening within the community.

“It has a tendency to permeate the school building and that’s unfortunate because discipline is a responsibility of everyone,” Cave said.

“Personally, I think, as some of the children move through, they have less and less respect for authority,” McNeely said. “And the way they want to do things is that they think they are adults and they do what they want when they want.”

To parents who worry about sending their students to school, Cave invited them to come into the schools and help.

“Help us combat the problem,” she said. “Come in and help us. Volunteer. Come help us patrol the hall.”

McNeely says they are doing the best they can.

“Of course, this is our community and they think we’re not as safe as we should be, but in actuality, we are a lot safer than people around us are,” he said.

McNeely says hearings are scheduled for those students involved in the Nov. 21 incident. There, the district will decide what disciplinary action they will take at the school level for the students who were arrested.

Parents can read more about the district’s policies, including its Student Code of Conduct on the district’s website.