Posted: Thursday, February 22, 2018
Since last week, we have received many questions from parents about security measures designed to protect students in Greenville County Schools. We have also dealt with extensive rumors of threats this week, most of which have been tracked through social media to other states.
Greenville County Schools has a strong partnership with local law enforcement that includes an Office of School Enforcement, staffed with Greenville County Sheriff’s Office deputies. Every middle and high school has a School Resource Officer (SRO) assigned to and housed at the school. Zoned Security Patrols visit every elementary school and center several times during the school day and randomize those visits so they are not predictable. Law enforcement officers also conduct unannounced security breach tests on schools and provide the results to the district. Additionally, law enforcement personnel routinely use our school parking lots as “offices,” completing paperwork and other duties, while providing an additional level of security and acting as a deterrent.
Many of our schools’ security protocols remain confidential to maintain their effectiveness, but some can be shared. Every school has Emergency Plans to respond to a wide range of possible emergencies, including fire, bomb threats, severe storms, and active shooters. These plans were facilitated by a retired FBI special agent who continues as a security consultant to our district. They were built on a National Response Model that uses the framework of the National Incident Management System (NIMS), in cooperation with law enforcement and emergency management personnel. The district’s plan is periodically reviewed by experts to ensure it follows best practices.
Secure capture areas have been installed in all school lobbies to restrict visitor access to the building until cleared for entry. All visitors, volunteers, and vendors allowed in school must be screened against the national Sex Offender Registry, and criminal background checks are conducted on all volunteers who have one-on-one interaction with students. All locations have security cameras that can be accessed by the Sheriff’s Office (GCSO), personnel in the district office, and at our UL-approved security monitoring station. School personnel regularly patrol parking lots and building perimeters and report suspicious individuals who are on or near campus. School buses are also equipped with security cameras, GPS tracking, and two-way radios for emergency communication.
It is hard to believe in the aftermath of the event in Florida, but theft, violent crime, and student homicides in America’s K-12 schools have declined over the past decade, according to the National Institute of Justice. In fact, the most recent joint report from the Bureau of Justice/Department of Education indicates that 99% of the homicides involving school-aged victims occur somewhere other than school. This further underscores what we have known for years; school remains one of the safest, if not the safest, place for children.
Parents and students can help maintain the safety of our schools by immediately reporting to school administrators or law enforcement any threat or troubling behavior. Working together we can continue to assure that schools remain one of the safest places for children.