County schools assess safety in wake of Connecticut shooting
Berkeley County School District Superintendent Rodney Thompson met with county and city law enforcement representatives on Jan. 7 to discuss school safety, and several new measures have been implemented while the issue is further studied.
The Newtown, Conn., tragedy in December has raised significant awareness of the issue of school safety and prompted many districts and schools throughout the country to re-evaluate their safety procedures and plans.
In Berkeley County, district officials met with representatives from the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office, other law enforcement representatives, and municipal mayors to discuss strategic opportunities to improve school-based safety at the district’s 41 schools.
Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler said that Goose Creek Police Chief Harvey Becker attended and briefed him on the session. Heitzler is a former teacher and longtime principal at Goose Creek schools.
“I don’t think a guard at a school is going to do anything if anyone is determined to do something awful,” Hetizler said.
GCPD has four School Resource Officers for the eight schools in the city limits of Goose Creek, according to Heitzler. He said the two schools on the Navy base have extra security.
“Our community is growing and our schools are overcrowded,” Thompson said at the meeting. “With more students in our classrooms, we have more visitors to our schools than ever before. Safety on school property, including arrival and dismissal traffic, is an area of great focus.”
“School safety includes interior building safety, as well as exterior perimeter monitoring,” BCSO Captain Rick Ollic said. “The Sandy Hook incident raises concerns about building intruders and reinforces Berkeley County agencies’ shared commitment and dedication to the safety of our children.
“We are trained and prepared to manage an incident of that nature and work with the district routinely on drills, training procedures, and best practices.
“However, statistically, safety is a much larger issue for schools outside of the building where students and parents gather before and after school, or where the confluence of buses, passenger vehicles, walking and biking children, are merging to enter or exit a property.”
According to a release from the district, district principals and law enforcement representatives are conducting safety audits at all BCSD schools. Police presence will be increased as part of routine beat patrol, according to the district.
Increased measures will be taken to ask for visitor identification. Buildings and classrooms will be under review at each school. The district is reviewing entrance and exit procedures, doorways, lock systems and traffic flow patterns around school perimeters.