The family of Jacob Hall, the 6-year-old who was fatally wounded in the Townville Elementary School shooting, will be pursuing a state law in his honor, his aunt told the Independent Mail on Thursday.
Rebecca Hunnicutt said her family will push for the establishment of "Jacob's Law," which would require that armed officers be placed in all South Carolina schools.
"There needs to be a minimum number of armed officers per a certain number of students in our schools," Hunnicutt said. "Our kids need to be protected. They need to be safe. We need to make it mandatory. We can't bring Jacob back, but there is a world of children left to protect. Jacob's death cannot be in vain."
Jesse Osborne, 14, is charged in the school shooting. The teen is accused of killing his father, 47-year-old Jeffrey Osborne, in their Townville home Sept. 28, then taking his truck to the school about 3 miles away. Investigators say the teen opened fire at the school, wounding two 6-year-old students, hurting a third student, and shooting a first-grade teacher. Jacob died of his injuries Oct. 1.
It is not yet clear if the Hall family is working with a specific legislator on the officer issue.
Republican Rep. Jonathon Hill, whose district includes Townville, said he has not heard from Jacob's family.
"I certainly would be glad to talk with them," Hill said. "As with everything, the devil is in the details. One of the big questions is: 'Who is going to pay for this?' Obviously, if we are going to make a state mandate, we need to be able to fund it."
Hill also said he would like for local school officials to have the ability to decide what is best in their districts.
"We may want to shy away from the one-size-fits-all method of handling this," Hill said. "I'm supportive of anything that protects children and that also provides flexibility for people within the schools."
Sen. Kevin Bryant, an Anderson Republican, said he also has not been contacted by Jacob's family.
"It is certainly something I would want to talk to them about and would be willing to listen to them on," Bryant said.
Bryant said he believes school district officials and law enforcement officers should be able to meet together and decide whether they want to allow "appropriately trained" school district employees to be armed.
"Too many things are micromanaged in Columbia," Bryant said.
Rep. Anne Thayer said she believes something needs to be done to protect students, but she is not yet sure about the best way to do that. Thayer, an Anderson Republican, said that part of the answer may be allowing school employees with concealed weapons permits to bring their guns to work.
"When we have schools that are gun-free zones, it does seem like we are almost inviting something like this to happen," Thayer said. "What happened in Townville was a tragedy. Maybe having people with CPWs and having armed officers is the right answer. Maybe you only need one or the other. But maybe you need both. I am certainly open to any discussion."
The cost of putting armed officers in all South Carolina schools is unknown.
In Anderson County, school resource officers are already stationed at all middle and high schools.
Anderson School District 5, the largest school district in the county, also has officers or armed security guards at each of its elementary schools.
For Anderson city police officers in its elementary schools, the district pays $40,000 per officer. That figure covers the nine-month school year.
Townville resident Barbara Jo Mullis, a Democrat who is running against Hill, said she has questions about whether armed officers are needed in all elementary schools. Mullis, who is retired, was a teacher for 41 years.
"I would like to see safety measures for the schools start with having secure entrances and perimeters," Mullis said. "I have seen school resource officers work well in high schools and middle schools, but it doesn't seem to me like elementary schools are appropriate places for SROs. Even if you have one SRO in each school, a single officer can't be everywhere on a school campus. I would want to see beefed up security at entrances and perimeters first."
There is already one South Carolina law that is known as "Jacob's Law." That law sets school bus safety standards. It is named for Jacob Strebler, who was who was fatally injured in 1994 in a van that did not meet bus safety standards.