Horry County school board to vote on putting armed security in elementary schools

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The Horry County school board will vote Monday night on whether to put armed security guards in elementary schools – a move that has already been made for other schools. Chairman Joe Defeo said he's been in favor of the proposal for years now.

Horry County Schools has armed security guards and school resource officers in middle and high schools, but elementary schools don't have either. Depending on how the school board votes at Monday's 6 p.m. meeting, that could change.

"This has been going on from my discussion for four or five years," said Defeo. "Fortunately, the new administration is very well received with it. So, it's just a matter of providing more security."

Defeo said he's not anticipating any push back on this vote because he says anything the board has done to make Horry County Schools safer has been well-received. Regardless, a discussion about this will be allowed at the meeting.

The move will cost about $850,000 every year to add armed security guards to elementary schools. Defeo said these guards will have the sole purpose of protecting the schools hallways and classrooms.

When asked why armed security guards rather than school resource officers, Defeo said the SRO program's initial purpose was putting law enforcement officers in schools to make arrests. However, Defeo said his and parents' first concern is if children are safe in schools – not so much if their children are going to be arrested if they do something wrong.

"This is not like hiring regular security guards. We have asked them to go through an extreme vetting process, which they have," said Defeo, "I've been satisfied, the principals have been satisfied, and everybody that I've talked to has been very satisfied with the armed guards we have in the schools."

If the school board moves forward with this, armed security guards will be added to every single elementary school in Horry County, according to Defeo. He also said if a department within an individual city limit wants to supply school resource officers, the school board is also open to that idea. That would only happen, however, under the 50/50 contract the board currently has in place with other SRO programs.

If Monday night's vote passes, Defeo said armed security guards could soon start appearing in Horry County elementary schools within the next month – and the whole process is expected to be complete by the start of the next school year in September 2018.

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