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School leaders, police talk school security improvements

Representatives from the McDuffie County Board of Education and local law enforcement officials are taking a close look at the way security is handled on area campuses.

"All of this is about getting better communications between the police department, the sheriff's department, and the school system as it relates to security for our schools, whether it's at school or on a school bus after hours," said Assistant Superintendent Jim Franklin.

Currently, the school system employs two campus officers who are trained and certified police officers. One of the problems, according to Dr. Franklin, is the campus officers get off work at 4 p.m., and school buses are still on the road.

And then there's the question of just who is going to handle an incident when both school security officers and local law enforcement officers are on the scene.

"When the school calls us, we will go," said Thomson City Police Chief John Hathaway. "I think the little conflict is who's going to work it when we get there. That's what we're trying to work out."

The two groups have already met a couple of times to discuss ways to improve school security and plan to meet again - though nothing has been officially scheduled, Chief Hathaway said.

"We're meeting with them to work with them a little bit better to see what their needs are, what their expectations are of us, and our expectations of the campus police," said Chief Hathaway. "We are in discussion on it. We've got nothing confirmed right now. We're just trying to get more information on who's expected to do what, and what expectations are going to be met."

The school system officers, city officers and sheriff's deputies are working under a 2000 agreement that calls for regular meetings between agencies to better coordinate safety efforts. But in the five years since the agreement was signed, officials met only once - a February 2003 gathering - before the recent series of meetings.

Superintendent of Schools Mark Petersen said the goal of the recent talks is having clear, concise procedures in place for law enforcement officers - whether they work for the school board or not.

"We're just moving forward, looking at different options," Dr. Petersen said. "We've had several conversations with the city to see if we can do things better. It's kind of a proactive approach to making sure our school security it top-notch. Obviously safety is number one."



Web posted on Thursday, October 20, 2005











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