FLORENCE — Lauderdale County school and commission officials are looking at ways to increase security in county schools.
“We just want to open up a dialogue that could lead to more school resource officers for the system,” Superintendent Jennifer Gray told commissioners during a commission work session Tuesday.
She said there is one school resource officer, or SRO, for the 11 county schools.
“Our teachers and principals will be involved in additional training in the event that something like Sandy Hook might happen, but we need more SROs,” she said. “If the one SRO is on the east end of the county and something happens on the west end, it’s too late by the time he gets there.”
Twenty students and six school employees were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., by a lone gunman who stormed the school.
Gray said the cost of the one SRO is shared equally by the county school system and the County Commission.
“In 1999, the school system and commission entered into an agreement where we paid for one officer and the commissioner paid for a second one,” said John Mansell, the system’s supervisor for safety.
Commission Chairman Dewey Mitchell said the school district and the commission each furnished a car.
Mansell said that three years ago one of the SROs was taken out of the schools and never replaced.
Gray said when there were two SROs in the system, one covered the schools on the east end of the county and one covered the schools on the west end.
Mansell said police in the county municipalities provide extra patrols, but “not all of the schools are in municipalities with police departments.”
Gray said the cost is the only negative in increasing security.
“We want to be proactive by having more people in the schools, not reactive after something has happened,” Gray said. “We are open to any and all options as to how we can provide more security in the schools.”
Chief Deputy Jr. Witt said that three years ago, three candidates for the vacant SRO position were submitted to the superintendent’s office for consideration.
“But I believe because of funding the position wasn’t filled,” Witt said.
Mitchell asked Witt if the department had the personnel to designate a deputy to a second SRO position.
“With the additional help (the commission) has given us over the last few years, it shouldn’t be a problem,” Witt said.
The commission agreed to take the issue under advisement.
“To me, it’s a matter of personnel and money,” Mitchell said. “We’ve just got to look and see if we can afford the position.”
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.