School security: time, training and a hefty tab

By Valencia

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - Preparing for a new school year comes in many different forms. For parents it may mean buying new school supplies, while for students it may mean picking out their favorite first-day outfit. But, for Charleston County School District officials it means ensuring school security is top-notch.

"We do evaluations with our public safety partners," said Jeff Scott, director of security and emergency management for the Charleston County School District. "We take what we have in place to them and sit down and let them pick us apart."

For the last seven years, CCSD officials have worked to beef up school security. That mission intensified after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

"We want the teachers and the staff to start thinking," said Scott. "Make it a normal day- to-day process to think about just what would they do. Not be scared, [but] make good decisions now, so when an event happens you don't have to worry about it."

Scott says summertime is his busiest time of the year. He, along with others, work to ensure every school has a security plan, controlled building access and protection from the outside world.

One district-wide security measure: identification is taken from every school visitor before they enter the school. The ID information is then scanned into a computerized database.

"It checks that person against the sex offender registry, the national sex offender registry," Scott said.

Scott says the district is still working to finance other measures. For example, officials are looking into fencing. It would cost about $900,000 to outfit every school with a fence.

On the other side of things is law enforcement.

This school year, the Charleston Police Department instituted the School Security Response Team. The team is made up of six clusters, three officers each. The officers are solely assigned to school security, patrol and education.

"It's a really diverse group of men and women," said Chief Greg Mullen of the City of Charleston Police Department. "We have people who are SWAT operators, we have folks that work in special investigations, so they've got a lot of surveillance and technical expertise."

Mullen says the officers are trained to be "predictably unpredictable." They will spend their day sporadically visiting schools and making sure the school's security plan is being carried out properly.

"For the last two weeks, the officers who were selected have been going through a series of training that started out with what are the characteristics, the mental characteristics, the indicators of an active shooter," Mullen said.

Mullen says most of the officers were selected from other teams within the department. Mullen says they will be replaced by officers already in the police academy.{}