BAMBERG -- The Bamberg City Council budget committee has met and will make its recommendation to council. The big turnout of people for the meeting shows people are concerned about their city and school.
This has been a difficult process. Their major concern is keeping the city financially sound. Taxes in the city are low -- most of the taxes we pay here go to the school and the county.
Bamberg District One is a county school entity with children coming from all parts of the county. County Councilman Trent Kinard has been very vocal in this process and telling the city how to do its business and how appalling it is not to have resource officers in the schools, so now it is time for him and the county to step up to the plate and help with funds to provide that second SRO for those beautiful children and taxpaying parents out in the county.
I hope all those parents will demand this from the county and their tax dollars. The question from many folks is why should the citizens of the city foot the full bill when families from out in the county use the school as well? Most SROs in the schools surrounding us -- Barnwell, Orangeburg -- are all funded by the county and the sheriff’s department. Barnwell County funds Barnwell, Williston and Blackville, plus their career centers.
I feel I have to address the T& D’s May 24 article so that you will know more about that meeting than was reported. I am not defending, nor speaking for Police Chief George Morris, but I am truly sorry about the misspoken words by Chief Morris about our athletes. And I will be recommending council deal with this personnel matter. He has apologized to me and made a public apology in the newspapers. I feel he is deeply sorry. I was in the meeting and did not remember his statement in the same light as it appeared in this article. He did talk about some drug use that he felt was not being addressed by the SRO officer.
The article failed to mention the statements from the high school principal and vice principal talking about students being handcuffed on many occasions and being held in a holding cell for five hours. The chief said he had no knowledge of this, nor any incident reports from the SRO officer in these matters. And backup was never called. I truly cringed and cannot believe this happened.
The SRO is not there to discipline. That is the principal’s job. The article failed to report the superintendent’s words to two city council persons that work in the school system and serve on the budget committee … when talking about someone walking in the schools to do harm without a resource officer … pointing at Mrs. Chavis: “You will be the first person shot” and pointing at Mrs. Bunch: “You will be next.”
When Chief Morris said the program was not working, Mrs. Schwarting held the contract up and told how the city was not following the program. I have walked in as a new mayor and hearing all this tells me the system is broken. From what the chief and Mrs. Schwarting are saying, I am not even sure we have an SRO contract. It appears to me that neither party is complying.
In the article, Morris said, “I can’t even discipline my own officers in the schools.” And everyone is appalled and asking me “why in the world can’t he control his officer”! However, he’s telling you the truth. The SRO was given orders in many situations by the chief and the SRO refused to follow through with the orders. The SRO would go to the previous city administration and the school officials rather than follow his supervisor’s orders. This has been a real frustration for the chief as a supervisor.
Problems and concerns about the SRO program were brought before the school and the previous city administration many times and they chose to do nothing. Chief Morris does not have the authority to fire an officer; that is the mayor’s job. He can call for a reprimand or make recommendations to the mayor and council, but he cannot fire. So his hands are tied if the mayor and the school officials will not listen to recommendations and take action.
In the article, we were reminded by the superintendent about Columbine and other tragedies … and we understand and know how awful that was. But as tragic as it was, the destruction occurred despite the fact that there was an armed security officer at the school and another one nearby.
I have three beautiful grandchildren in this school system and a daughter that teaches here. I do pray that my friend, Mr. Kinard, and the county, on behalf of their constituents that come to B-E High, B-E Middle and Richard Carroll, will now do all they can to help provide the city with the funds to continue this program.