CCSD reviews campus safety, looks at future security options

CHARLESTON COUNTY, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County School Board members are looking at the district's plans when it comes to keeping your child safe at school.

For this school year there have been four instances of students bringing handguns inside Charleston County schools.

During Monday's school board meeting, district safety leaders and local law enforcement officials talked about what can be done to not let it happen again and make everyone feel safe.

"Anything we can do to reduce or eliminate schools coming into our school is the goal," CCSD Security and Emergency Management Director Michael Reidenbach said.

Reidenbach said four handguns entering the school in the first month and a half is concerning, but overall weapon offenses are down.

"Even though we've had this increase in the number of handguns we do see our total weapons offenses are down based on the trend from last year," Reidenbach said. "But we are still higher than we were the years prior to last year."

For the 2016-17 school year seven handgun offenses were issued. Overall there were 169 offenses including knives, guns, taser, pepper spray, etc.

For the 2017-18 school year there are 19 total offenses.

"It does cause us to pause and say why is this happening, and what we can do to help reduce this from occurring," Reidenbach said. "Especially when we're talking about one of these situations with a firearm being discharged in a school."

The security and emergency management team has actions in-progress to make people feel safer at school. The actions the district said are currently in-progress include: school PA announcements to provide information to deter weapons, a video on the consequences of a weapon and how you can report it, ways to involve parents, an app or text-based alert system to stay anonymous while alerting officials, reward programs, focus groups and random searches throughout schools.

There are random weapon screenings performed at CCSD schools. Reidenbach said only three schools reported using CCSD's two portable walk-thorough metal detectors to perform a screening for this school year.

Two members brought up the use of full-time metal detectors within the district.

Full-time metal detector use would consist of 78 walk-through metal detectors, 78 handheld metal detectors, barriers, tables, and spare equipment. "The equipment cost would be a little under $350,000 as a one-time expense," Reidenbach said. "That is the cheapest number when you take into account the staff and staff time, training, police officers, the additional oversight, and maintenance staff. It would get significant."

Major Watson with the Charleston County Sheriff's Office was a part of the school security conversation and said a metal detector is not the most creative way to prevent firearms from entering the school. "Metal detectors is not the cure for all. I'm a parent as well and it will not reduce violence, it will not reduce weapons in the schools," Watson said. "I think the more tools you place in the student's hands, like the app you talked about and the campaign you talked about, I think that's the most creative prevention you can use."

The district is looking at options to make schools more secure, but Reidenbach said it will take a community effort to truly solve the problem.  "There are a lot of things we can do as a district to help prevent issues from coming into our school buildings but to address our root cause, it's going to require the help of everybody," Reidenbach said. "Everybody within our schools, everybody within our community."

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