The entrance to Southside Christian School on Woodruff Road is just one example of how school security has evolved in recent years.
“That whole front entrance we redid,” said Sam Barfell, Southside Christian School superintendent. Barefell pointed out the door lock mechanisms, the integrated camera systems, the security software, the staff on hand and all the other aspects that have been implemented to ensure students are as safe as possible during the school day.
In today’s climate of mass school shootings, it’s just one aspect of school security infrastructure that includes emergency radio systems, access control, building and property security, radio frequency identification, surveillance, detection and emergency medical response equipment.
And all that stuff doesn’t come cheap.
That’s why a group of South Carolina law makers have just introduced a bill that would remove the 6% sales tax for all security-related purchases made by schools, colleges and universities. The tax exemption would apply to both public and private schools.
“You know, we send our children to school to learn,” said Rep. Jason Elliott, who co-sponsored the bill. “This common-sense legislation will improve the safety of South Carolina students.”
By his estimates, Barfell said the Southside Christian School System spends roughly $150,000 every year on school security. (Assuming that consisted of all direct purchases, that equates to $9,000 in sales tax cost.)
“And we’re not flush with cash by any means, so any help is always a win for us,” Barfell said, adding that any savings from the tax exemption would likely go right back into adding additional security measures.
Rep. Bobby Cox, another co-sponsor of the bill, said additional security for soft targets like schools was crucial for ensuring their safety.
“I come from an Army Ranger background, so I know a lot about soft targets and hard targets, and about protecting people from those who want to cause harm to innocents,” Cox said. “That’s what this bill does: protects our most valuable resources in the community, our children.”
Stacy Kuper, a tech businesswoman and regional sales manager with Encore Technology Group, was pivotal in pushing for the bill, according to both Cox and Elliott. Kuper said she was motivated by listening to her clients in the education community.
“I specialize in education,” Kuper said. “So I’m in the trenches with them every day figuring out how we can be proactive and not reactive when it comes to school safety and the safety of our citizens.”
The bill, which was introduced in late January, is still making its way through the Statehouse.