Every school day, Simpsonville, S.C., police officer Justin Chandler patrols the halls of Plain Elementary School. But Chandler is not a school resource officer, a position typically filled by specially trained officers who are stationed at schools to bolster security. Unlike many armed guards in public schools, Chandler's position comes at no extra cost to local taxpayers.
According to a segment of "Today" that aired Wednesday, the town pays Chandler his regular police salary, and he voluntarily works out of the school, instead of the local police station. "All I needed from the school was a desk and WiFi," Chandler told "Today."
While sources of funding for school resource officer programs vary by locality, many districts receive financial backing from the government or through private grants.
Watch the "Today" show clip in the video (above).
CBS local affiliate WSPA reports that Simpsonville's Parent-Teacher Association and School Improvement Council devised the idea and later pitched the proposal to the town's police and school district.
Jennifer Dow, a parent of a Plain Elementary student, was present at the brainstorming meeting when the concept was brought up. Speaking to WSPA, Dow urged other parents to propose such a plan to their local authorities.
"Pick up the phone, call your local police department and see if they would be willing to do this," Dow told the TV station.
Chandler and another officer began their "office hours" at area elementary schools near the end of January, the Tribune-Times reports. Additionally, off-duty sheriff’s deputies conduct random patrols of schools in the Greenville County district, of which Simpsonville is a part. Resource officers are also stationed at all the district's middle and high schools.
While Simpsonville's police officer plan could, in theory, be a model for schools nationwide, placing armed patrolmen in schools still presents risks. On Tuesday, an officer in Highland, N.Y., "accidentally discharged" his gun in a high school hallway, prompting the district to put their school resource officer program on hold.
The White House has outlined a federally funded program calling for the creation of 1,000 school resource officers, but experts remain skeptical over whether placing more guns in schools would effectively deter school violence and future mass shootings.