Palmetto Opinion

Editorials from around South Carolina: ‘disturbing schools’ law; gun background checks; police video

Student video shows then-Richland County senior Deputy Ben Fields trying to remove a student who refused to leave her Spring Valley High School math class.
Student video shows then-Richland County senior Deputy Ben Fields trying to remove a student who refused to leave her Spring Valley High School math class. Associated Press

Disturbing schools

We put our children in school to learn. So it should be troubling to parents — and all South Carolinians — that in the past five years there were 8,552 students referred to the Department of Juvenile Justice for so-called “disturbing school” offenses.

The numbers, along with a much-publicized incident caught on video in a Richland County high school, highlight what some call a “school-to-prison” pipeline that short circuits students’ education with a discipline system that increasingly includes police officers and potential criminal charges.

The significant number of referrals may well be related to the unusual nature of South Carolina’s disturbing schools law that brings officers into a classroom more frequently than in other states, according to a recent report by Greenville News reporter Nathaniel Cary.

Disturbing schools is a misdemeanor that carries up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail. Students can be charged if they “interfere with or … disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school” or if they “act in an obnoxious manner.” …

South Carolina would do well to examine whether authorities are using the disturbing schools charge to criminalize misbehavior in the classroom, and whether it is fairly applied. Those 8,552 referrals in five years — roughly 1,700 referrals a year, statewide — demand such an examination.

Greenville News

State gun law

Federal law already requires background checks for purchases from federally licensed firearms dealers. But state law does not currently require the results of the background check to be returned before a buyer can take home a gun — only that the check be initiated and the three-day mandatory waiting period be fulfilled. …

That loophole was apparently partly responsible for allowing Dylann Roof to purchase the gun allegedly used in the mass murder at Emanuel AME. Roof should have been barred from owning a gun after being arrested on a felony drug charge earlier this year, but clerical errors kept that information from showing up in the background check process until after the three-day waiting period had elapsed.

Strengthening the state’s background check laws would be the simplest and most effective way to ensure that convicted criminals have a harder time getting their hands on firearms. It would also be the least intrusive for law-abiding South Carolinians.

Post & Courier


Police video

For almost two years, the city of North Augusta and the state’s top law enforcement division have sat on a video reportedly showing former North Augusta Department of Public Safety officer Justin Craven’s fatal shooting of 68-year-old Edgefield County resident Ernest Satterwhite Sr. …

(A) cover-up as massive as Chicago’s is likely not the case — North Augusta and SLED officials are not postponing criminal charges like in the Chicago case.

But there are lessons to be learned from Chicago and other state and nationwide officer-involved shooting incidents where dashcam footage was released — Walter Scott in North Charleston in April, Zachary Hammond in Seneca in July, Levar Jones at a gas station outside of Columbia in September 2014 and even the shooting death of the wife of former Aiken County deputy-in-training Matthew Blakley in June — barring the public from a public record, which has been released in other similar cases — is an injustice and a disservice to the trust between law enforcement, the public and the media.

At this point, the only thing we can ask is, what are you hiding?

Aiken Standard