Photo of Richland One logo at Richland One headquarters. (Photo by Caity Pitvorec)

Loaded guns in students’ backpacks, brawls at football games and a knife pulled during lunch recently prompted Richland County schools to ramp up security measures.

Richland One School Board Chairperson Cheryl Harris called an emergency board meeting Monday to discuss safety for extra curricular and athletic events after a string of incidents in neighboring schools. 

“Safety is a major priority right now,” Harris said. “We need to look at what we’re doing and make sure that it’s effective, that we don’t have bigger issues later.” 

Wednesday, a 17-year-old student at Columbia High School, a school in Richland One’s St. Andrews area, brought a loaded gun in his backpack. 

He was charged with carrying a firearm on school grounds, possessing a pistol under the age of 18 and unlawfully carrying a weapon.

Earlier this month, seven students were arrested for fighting during a Spring Valley High School football game in Richland School District Two. The students were charged with fighting after the Sept. 9 incident and released to their parents, according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

In response, Richland Two implemented new safety protocols for sporting events. 

Students now need a ticket and a student ID to get into a game without a parent or guardian, and no one can enter after halftime. People must stay in their seats unless they go to the restroom or the concession stand and aren’t allowed to get snacks after the third quarter. Also, face masks that entirely cover a person’s face are prohibited, according to an email sent to parents and obtained by The Carolina News and Reporter.

Richland One schools are implementing similar restrictions beginning with this Friday’s game. 

The district already has had a clear bag policy for sporting events, weapon detectors at entrance gates, and law enforcement and private security officers at all high school games. 

Richland One earlier decided to install metal detectors at its high schools. That should be happening in the next few weeks, according to Karen York, Richland School District One’s spokesperson. Metal detectors also are being considered for middle and elementary schools, York said. 

On the same day as the emergency meeting, a 14-year-old girl pulled a knife at Richland Northeast High School, a Richland Two school, during a fight with two other girls. No one was injured. 

The girl faces charges of assault and battery of a hgh and aggravated nature and carrying a weapon on school property.

Nearby, on Sept. 2, a 15-year-old brought a gun to Spring Valley High. He was charged with unlawfully carrying a weapon, possessing a firearm on school grounds and possessing a pistol under the age of 18. 

In response, Richland One emphasized the importance of students reporting suspicious activities, such as the carrying of guns and knives, to officials. 

“We encourage students and staff, for that matter, that if they see or hear anything that they think could possibly pose a threat to school safety, to report that immediately,” York said. “We have seen that happen, including in the incident this week, where the loaded gun was found. And in doing that has helped to avert tragedies.” 

At the board meeting, Richland One board members and Coach Bob Matz, the district athletic director, discussed protocols for attending athletic events. 

“I’m always open for discussion,” Matz said. “Just like I said, we do our protocols. And (they’re) time tested. They’ve worked.” 

Harris, Richland One’s chairperson, expressed concerns about the number of unsupervised students who don’t attend the school but come to games. That leads administrators to become “babysitters,” Harris said. 

“Law enforcement is here to watch the total picture,” Harris said. “So we pull them to watch individual kids, which kind of defeats the purpose. So I think that it’s important we talk about our security for games and should make sure that we’re doing all we can proactively.” 

Photo of Richland One board members during emergency meeting at Richland One headquarters. (Photo by Caity Pitvorec)

News release from Richland School District One, saying additional safety measures are being implemented at high school football games. (Photo provided by Karen York at Richland One)


Julia Goulet

Julia Goulet

Goulet is a senior journalism major, minoring in political science, at the University of South Carolina. She is an opinion writer for the student newspaper, The Daily Gamecock. She was promoted to an opinion beat writer covering university politics. As the current opinion editor she covers topics from state elections to abortion rights. Goulet is a self-published author and has read 185 books (and counting) since January 2021.

Caity Pitvorec

Caity Pitvorec

Pitvorec is a senior journalism major at the University of South Carolina. She enjoys breaking news, recently reporting on the spike in gas prices. She also covered chickenpox outbreaks across the state. She plans to use her minor in law and society in her work to capture K-12 issues and more diverse issues affecting the community.