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Schools: District adds deputies to security plan

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

“There’s a deputy. I feel safe.”

That was what a 7-year-old told her father this week when expanded security arrived at Georgetown County schools in the wake of last month’s murder of 20 students at an elementary school in Connecticut.

“It’s sad that a 7-year-old has to acknowledge that,” said Assistant Sheriff Carter Weaver, who was told about the comment in a Facebook message from the father. “As the same time, it’s very powerful that you can have that effect on a 7-year-old.”

The Georgetown County School Board this week approved $150,000 for additional security through the end of the school year. It will mean a deputy will be at each of the district’s 18 schools and the Howard Adult Center.

The district already has 10 school resource officers at its middle and high schools. The expanded presence is at the elementary schools and Waccamaw Intermediate. The school board will need to decide by the end of February whether it wants to fund more security in the coming school year. The current effort has been done without adding staff at the sheriff’s office, but it will take additional deputies to make the security permanent and it will take six months to train those deputies, Weaver said.

Superintendent Randy Dozier said he will include the additional funds in the budget. At the same time, he said the district needs to lobby for additional funding for security from the state.

“We’re picking up the bulk of the tab for this,” he said. “This is never going to go away for us. I never see it improving.”

Neither the district nor the sheriff’s office will talk about the details of the added security.

It is based on the increase in deputies at schools that regularly occurs at the start of the year and at holidays.

Even before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults, the district had plans for extra security, Dozier said. Staff from the district and the sheriff’s office met this month to implement them.

“It gives a measure of security for our students and teachers,” Dozier said.

School resource officers receive additional training, but the deputies who are part of the added security “are well aware of our students and parents,” he said. The district hires deputies for security at athletic events and other school activities that attract large crowds.

“It’s been well-received,” Weaver said.

Dozier said the district will evaluate how much added security it needs and present the board with a recommendation for the coming school year. A key factor will be who pays the cost.

Board Member Arthur Lance said he spoke with a member of the county’s legislative delegation. He isn’t optimistic about state funds. “It’s going to come back on the local boards,” he said.

Board Member Richard Kerr said the county and state have a role to play. “Safety of our schools is not only the responsibility of our board,” he said. “It’s not just kids that are injured.”

The school district has continued to add security measures. There are cameras in the schools and on buses. Access to buildings is restricted.

“The only question is, Where do you draw the line?” Weaver said. “The people who carry this on their backs are the taxpayers. There needs to be a lot of community input in this process.”

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