Beaufort County school board discusses safety strategies against shooters

(Source: WTOC)
(Source: WTOC)

BEAUFORT CO., SC (WTOC) - Beaufort County school board members are weighing the options for protecting schools after more than a dozen threats have circulated over the past two weeks.

The board met with law enforcement and school officials Wednesday night to map out what is working and what isn't.

Superintendent Jeff Moss was quick to admit there are security measures in place, but the schools need to do a better job of using them. The school system sought advice from the sheriff's office, principals, and even students for what they believe will prevent what we saw in Florida last month.

The school uses doors are used for defense. They claim they're double entry and locked during the day, but leniency with visitors is leaving them open to active shooters.

"Right now, a lot of the time you're let in and then you speak to someone, before you speak to someone," said Jeff Moss, Superintendent.

There are also dead spots where law enforcement radios don't work in the schools, and surveillance cameras have blind spots. Sheriff P.J. Tanner says the two safest buildings in Beaufort are the jail and the courthouse, mostly because of the camera monitoring system.

"One person can monitor every square inch of that courthouse from one seat," Sheriff Tanner said.

It's something they're considering for schools. What is also suggested - but not wanted - by Superintendent Moss or students based on a survey - is arming teachers. They don't want weapons in the school, period.

"I also believe it would be extremely difficult for a teacher to look a student in the eye and pull the trigger," Superintendent Moss said.

He says law enforcement is trained for that, but teachers are not.

Metal detectors would also require staffing and training, as well as funding for $2.3 million each year. The time it would take to bring in kids in a single file line every day would take away from time learning.

"If we could move students through one every 15 seconds, it would still require about 2.5 hours for 1,200 kids," the superintendent said.

These are all ideas that are up for discussion, but what the school system wants to shut up are the threats circulating on social media - all unsubstantiated.

"If all of those posts were true last week, we could have lost half of our student body," Superintendent Moss said.

The sheriff's office wants to eliminate Facebook help pages, group chats, really any type of alternative hotline, and push people to use Crimestoppers so ALL communication is interlinked. To make Crimestoppers mobile, they're releasing an app version called P3TIPS in the next week or so. It's free and anonymous.

"We want these 22,000 plus students to have that app. We'd love for every one of them to have that app," Sheriff Tanner said.

One platform of communication to eliminate rumors and a first step for the school system to safer classrooms.

Sheriff Tanner says an important addition to the app will be a reward for those who submit legitimate information. As for the other suggestions made Wednesday night, the school board is in the beginning stages of determining what will work and what goes too far.

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