South Carolina’s first priorities in combatting school violence should be prevention and involving parents and community leaders, according to a task force studying school violence.

“Teachers aren’t equipped to be a teacher and a counselor at the same time,” state Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum said.

At the same time, schools need more police, guidance counselors, nurses, and psychologists, the South Carolina Safe Schools Task Force said in its final report released Nov. 29.

Tenenbaum, Gov. Jim Hodges, and Attorney General Charlie Condon co-chaired the committee. Its nearly four dozen members come from law enforcement, judicial, legislative, education, and anti-violence programs.

The committee has been working since May and outlined four goals to improve school safety.

On its first goals of prevention, the Education Department has created an Office of Safe Schools and Youth Services to help bridge school and community efforts and has formed a partnership with the National Resource Center for Safe Schools, Tenenbaum said.

Condon also suggested making character education mandatory in all schools. Thirty-two of the state’s 96 districts already have such programs, Condon spokesman Robb McBurney said.

“New laws or new government programs by themselves won’t stop school crime,” Condon said. “Old-fashioned common sense and the age-old sense of right and wrong will.”

A third recommendation is to identify students at risk of committing crime and offer them treatment programs. That means expanding school-based mental health services to all public schools and increasing the number of alternative schools in South Carolina.

Hodges said his executive budget would include plans to build the alternative school program and hire more resource officers.

The fourth goal is to increase overall effectiveness in dealing with youth violence by better coordinating policies, training, and technical help. Mike LeFever, Hodges’ deputy chief of staff and a task force member, will coordinate a Center for the Prevention and Reduction of Youth Violence, Hodges said.

The report presents a three-year timeline running through June 2002 to implement, study, and review the recommendations.