HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - A decision made by the Horry County School Board earlier this summer will affect area students when they head back to class next week.
Armed security officers hired by U.S. Security Associates will replace Horry County Police Department school resource officers.
In a follow-up to a WMBF News investigation, school board member Holly Heniford talked about the decision to make this change.
"We want those parents to know that we have done what we have done for a reason," Heniford said. "We struggled with it. It was heartfelt. It was not a light decision. We did not want to make that decision."
Heniford said the battle over money to pay for Horry County police officers started as the school board was trying to settle its budget.
According to Heniford, county leaders asked the school board to pay for new vehicles for the SROs, patrol equipment and training, and things she said weren't needed.
"It was inequitable," Heniford said. "It's not right for us to spend money that we don't need to spend for the execution of a job. And it's not fair to the kids because we need to be spending that money on the children. They wouldn't talk to us. They wouldn't negotiate. They wouldn't change what they were asking for at all. I don't know their reasoning. I was elected to take care of our kids and take care of our tax dollars, and that's what I've done."
Those things were going to cost the district more than what they had been paying for traditionally.
Heniford said school board members decided on a cheaper option. They went with a company they had history with, U.S. Security Associates.
However, they had only been providing unarmed security guards until this school year.
"The experience is there with these officers," Heniford said. "Is it going to be perfect? I wish. But no situation when dealing with law enforcement and stress and kids is perfect. We just want to make sure that the kids are taken care of, that it's equitable, and that the taxpayers are taken care of. That's why we made the decision."
Heniford claimed all of the armed security officers hired to work in Horry County Schools have law enforcement and/or military experience.
WMBF News asked the district for those officers' resumes to confirm that statement.
Heniford was also asked if she believed local children will be as safe in the hands of these security officers.
This was her answer:
"There are more policemen on the streets right now because we replaced them in the schools," Heniford said.
She added that if something happens with one of the new security officers, they would be replaced by another security officer from U.S. Security Associates.