South Carolina Senators hope federal funds prevent classroom tragedy

South Carolina Senators Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott introduced a plan that would provide nearly $4 billion in funds to public schools across the country annually. It would improve safety infrastructure and allow for more counselors and mental health training. (File photo)

Both South Carolina Senators are taking action to improve classroom safety, and they're hoping a good start is to increase federal support.

A bill introduced by Sen. Tim Scott, Sen. Lindsey Graham and 11 other bipartisan senators, including Marco Rubio, is in early stages of its life in Washington.

The School Safety and Mental Health Services Improvement Act comes in wake of the Parkland School Shooting back in February.

The plan consists of several different layers, but it could spell a fairly significant amount of money each year inside local schools. The federal government would set aside about $1.65 billion for safety and $2.3 billion dollars for counselors and mental health services for all public schools in the country.

"Overall, it's a very good start," said Janet Graham, who represents District 7 on the Horry County School Board.

Graham said it could probably help fund security options like surveillance cameras, but her focus is on the mental health aspect behind recent school tragedies.

"Guidance counselors are always needed and the more we can get, the better it is for our students," she said.

Horry County Schools have guidance counselors on all campuses, and mental health counselors to handle anxiety and depression in 43 out of 51 schools, according to the district spokesperson.

In the Pee Dee, Sam Fryer is responsible for more than 700 students. Fryer oversees behavioral counseling in Florence School District 1. He was responsible for even more students when he first started his position as mental health counselor.

"The fact that the senators want to create this bill is major, major progress for us," he said.

Down in Georgetown, the safety and security focus is used on things like shatterproof glass and metal detectors. Lately, leaders have been thinking about preventative solutions.

"That's getting a lot more attention this time than just hiring more cops, is, 'How do we prevent these things from the front end or identify people that could potentially be helped,'" he said.

He and other leaders hope it may get the ball rolling.

"We need mental health counselors in the school for three simple reasons: For safety, for safety and for safety," said Fryer.

We reached out to Senator Lindsey Graham. We have not received a statement or comment.

Senator Scott responded to our request for comment. He said:

"Ensuring schools have the resources they need to upgrade their infrastructure is an important step we can take to keeping our students safe. This will allow schools across South Carolina to use federal dollars for mental health programs, security updates and more. As we continue to work towards solutions on this important topic, I want to thank Senator Alexander and my colleagues on the HELP Committee for their work on this issue,"

Graham and Walters said both are skeptical as to how much federal funding would come to their districts, should the bill pass.

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