Private armed security guards will protect your kids next year.
The Horry County School Board voted Monday to approve a $550,000 contract with U.S. Security Associates to provide 18 armed security guards who will patrol the 15 schools that Horry County police previously patrolled as well as three new schools scheduled to be open by next year.
I expect them to try and recruit former law enforcement, retired law enforcement, ex-military.
Joe DeFeo, school board chairman
Chief Financial Officer John Gardner said in an email he doesn’t recall the district ever using private security inside schools.
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U.S. Security Associates is an insured, American-owned company that provides over 50,000 security professionals with 160 branches in the United States, according to its website.
The firm also provides unarmed security outside Horry County schools and its existing contract with the district provides that it may supply armed security guards for an additional cost if needed.
One thing that we know in our school district is the safety and security is not just an individual officer or individual person. Safety and security is part of a team effort.
John Poston, school board member
The security guards in the schools would have arresting authority on school property, according to district spokeswoman Teal Britton.
Unlike police officers, they would operate at the disposal of the school district.
The company in its proposal told the district that all armed guards would receive all necessary training required by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division as well as an additional 16 hours in training from U.S. Security Associates.
“The company will be required to provide proof of all background checks and training,” Britton said last week.
U.S. Security Associates District Manager Ed Leitgeb said the firm puts its employees through extensive social security background checks and other databases and would like to recruit veterans and law enforcement to fill the positions in Horry County Schools.
Leitgeb said all security guards are required to be trained in CPR, first aid and automated external defibrillator operation.
“I expect them to keep up the promises that they made,” said school board Chairman Joe DeFeo. “I expect them to try and recruit former law enforcement, retired law enforcement, ex-military. We’re going to keep the pressure on them to hire the proper individuals.”
Board member John Poston said that safety and security is the “utmost importance” in Horry County Schools.
“One thing that we know in our school district is the safety and security is not just an individual officer or individual person, whether it be a security officer or SRO,” Poston said. “Safety and security is part of a team effort. It comes from the vision of the board of education handed down through our administration, rolled out through out teachers and even in our students. It’s a culture that we build in Horry County schools.”
The district already has budgeted $801,000 in the 2017-18 budget for all SROs, including $592,000 for officers at the schools that Horry County police would have patrolled this year: the amount budgeted for the officers under the previous agreement with the county.
The district began looking at private security options after the county in March abandoned a long-standing agreement to split the cost of school resource officers’ salaries, and most recently asked for more than $1.6 million to patrol the schools.