Horry County school board members officially joined the school security discussion during its meeting Monday, as a few members weighed in on what has become a national topic.
School districts around the nation have been examining their school security plans following the Dec. 14 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 26 people, mostly students, before turning the gun on himself. The event has sparked debate on school security, including the arming of teachers and administrators.
Board Chairman Joe DeFeo talked about a bill that has been pre-filed in the S.C. House that would allow public school employees to carry concealed weapons on school grounds as long as they follow certain guidelines. Defeo said he has problems with two parts of the bill: allowing anyone who follows the guidelines to carry, which would take the power away from the school board, and making them carry their weapons on their person at all times. He said he believes they may be better locked up, and he would be in favor of the bill if those items were changed.
Board member Harvey Eisner, District 1, said he is opposed to teachers having guns in the schools, but he wants more re-evaluation of current school security before measures, if any, are taken. Board member John Poston, District 8, asked members to keep in mind their vision statement of having welcoming centers – albeit safe centers – as they consider moves to be made toward more security.
“I don’t want our community to feel they can’t come in our schools because they can’t get past our buzzer system,” said Poston, who said he’s always considered Horry County Schools to be a very safe district.
New board member Jeffrey Garland, District 11, asked the superintendent to evaluate the cost difference between unarmed security, which already costs more than $300,000, and adding more school resource officers, and DeFeo brought up the idea of school protective officers, who would serve simply for protection at the lower grade levels, especially where the schools are in clusters.
Earlier in the evening, the board agreed to form a legislative committee, something that has been done in the past and that has helped with education legislation that has been beneficial to the district. DeFeo said the committee should address the pre-filed bill as part of its mission should the bill begin moving through the legislature.
The board took no official action, but DeFeo made the point that children are still safer in school. He said the district would be working with city and county officials and looking at all options to make sure children remain safe.