School resource officers an important piece of a bigger puzzle

Published 5:03 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2018

On Tuesday, the Beaufort County Board of Education and the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office agreed to a deal that will put school resource officers in every public school in Beaufort County.

The presence of these law enforcement officers will send a message that the safety of our children is of the utmost importance. Having a SRO on each campus, however, is only one piece of a much greater picture when it comes to dealing with school security.

In order to thoroughly address the issue of school safety, county leaders must consider a wide variety of factors. The good news is, in many regards, they already are. School resource officers, combined with the following, will ensure greater safety in our schools.

  • Coordinated efforts — To ensure safe schools, county leaders must all be pulling the rope in the same direction. In April, representatives of Beaufort County, the BCSO, Beaufort County Schools and Beaufort County Community College came together to form a committee specifically dedicated to school safety. The result of this committee is improved communication, better planning and understanding of each entity’s role in the event of a crisis.
  • Hardened infrastructure — In many respects, BCS has been forward-thinking when it comes to hardening its campuses. Controlled entry points and electronic locks at every campus create a frontline of defense against possible intruders. In the long term, plans are in the works to create connecting corridors between buildings at schools throughout the county.
  • Preparing for the worst — While the very existence of “active shooter drills” is a sad statement on the current state of affairs in our country, preparing for such an eventuality is a reality of modern life. Ensuring that students know what to do during such an emergency, and that teachers know how to best protect students, is a grim, yet necessary, part of school safety.
  • Mental health/counseling services — Adding to the list of people who focus on the mental and emotional needs of students, the Board of Education took steps this year to add a mental health professional to its staff. Even facing a half-million dollar shortfall in this year’s budget, the board refused to compromise on mental health. Currently filling that role, guidance counselors and school nurses play a tremendous role in caring for students’ mental health needs. Addressing these needs is critical.

Between these items and the important step of adding SROs at each campus, Beaufort County is making progress with regards to school safety. If what has been accomplished thus far is any indication, the issue is being taken seriously.