Board wants progress on school safety

By: By Amber Hatten-Staley - Staff reporter

LAURINBURG — Despite requesting action on the issue of school safety, the Scotland County Schools Board of Education continues to find itself in a holding pattern.

School officials will have to wait until next month to hear from Larry Johnson, assistant superintendent of auxiliary services, and the district’s school resource officers.

“We will have a group come to the July (23) Committee of the Whole meeting and present the final things they are talking about,” said Superintendent Ron Hargrave.

Board members Herman Tyson, Rick Singletary and Jamie Sutherland questioned what needed to be done in order to expedite the process of purchasing and installing metal detectors at Scotland High.

“I just don’t want us to wait until something happens,” said Tyson. “We need to show the community we’re working towards making this thing happen. We’re not saying we’re waiting for a weapon to be found at the high school, it has happened.”

Last month, two students were arrested for bringing a gun to the high school which has prompted community members to question how the gun made it onto the campus undetected.

In an effort to increase security, board members were adamant about installing four metal detectors — two at the bus entrance and two at the main entrance — and filtering students through them each morning before they are permitted to enter the building.

Each metal detector would cost between $5,000 and $6,000. The school district does have the available local funds to purchase them, but Hargrave said it’s the man power and policies that could hinder progress.

“I can put one at every door, but if I don’t have someone to man it it’s not going to help anything,” said Hargrave. “We have to also go back and look at our polices to make sure they support anything that happens.”

Hargrave said the high school’s two resource officers and three security officers would require additional training.

“When that buzzer goes off and you start patting students, you need to be trained on the proper way to pat someone down,” he said.

Scotland High uses metal detectors for various sporting events including football, basketball and volleyball to keep fans from bringing prohibited items into the stadium or gym.

Board member Raymond Hyatt mentioned that staff would need to do a better job of checking students entering the high school than they do at the games.

“They are not doing a thorough job of scanning folks at the gate,” he said.

Sutherland said whether or not the school used the metal detectors every day or not would be up to the staff, but having them in place to deter students from bringing weapons to campus was of the utmost priority.

“If they are there students have to walk through them and don’t know what day they are going to use them or not,” Sutherland said. “I don’t know why we just don’t do it.”

Singletary agreed saying he wanted the district to make a decision so the metal detectors could be purchased, staff trained and an issues worked out before the beginning of school.

“I want to do it early so they can get it in place,” he said.

Another safety measure that is being considered district wide is transitioning students to clear book bags. The clear bags allow school officials to more easily see what’s inside each child’s book bag to prevent students from concealing a weapon.

No action was taken by the board, which will hold its next meeting on Monday, July 9 at 5 p.m. at the A.B. Gibson Center.

Amber Hatten-Staley can be reached at 910-506-3170 or [email protected]

By Amber Hatten-Staley

Staff reporter