IRMO, SC (WIS) – In an effort to keep students and staff safe, Lexington-Richland School District 5 is considering a policy change that would allow some members of its security team to be armed with weapons fire on its campuses.
The district board approved the first reading of the policy this week, which would allow staff members who are current or former Class 1 police officers to carry concealed weapons.
Lexington-Richland 5 employs 2,600 people, only three of whom would be qualified to bear arms under this new policy.
These three staff members are currently working as safety and security officers within the district.
Dr. Akil Ross, superintendent of Lexington-Richland 5, said these security guards are often the first to respond to incidents. He thinks it’s important to give them the ability to defend themselves and others.
“It’s an extra layer,” he said. “Having an extra group that you don’t know where they are, that they’re always on the move, that they’re assigned to every geographic location in our school district, that gives us an advantage.”
An important distinction, according to Ross, is that it would not replace school resource officers, but in addition to them.
Currently, four elementary schools do not have a uniformed assistant on campus.
These schools are Chapin Elementary, Leaphart Elementary, Seven Oaks Elementary, and Nursery Road Elementary.
However, the district has contracted with Security Solutions of America, a private security company, to provide armed guards at those schools for the time being.
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This company had to be certified to carry weapons through the South Carolina Division of Law Enforcement, and according to the district, that certification was not completed on the first day of school last week.
For this reason, the Richland County Sheriff’s Department has provided additional personnel to cover these four elementary schools for two days until the security company is fully certified.
Lexington-Richland 5’s contract with Security Solutions of America is for one year.
Ross said the district may consider continuing to use these armed guards once the district is fully staffed with ORS.
“I’m not sure I’m ready to release them even when they’re fully equipped with ORS,” Ross said.
If the plan is approved, Ross said it would provide three layers of security: an SRO at each school, armed guards through Security Solutions of America, and potentially all three security employees.
“You can never, these days, say we’ve done enough to be safe,” he said. “There is always something else we can do and so we will explore all those options.”
The district worked actively to tighten security in the months following the deadly school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“We constantly review and monitor our safety and security plans,” Ross said. “Once you have one, it’s constantly reviewed.”
Ross said the district worked closely with South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel to draft that plan.
Keel recommended that the three security guards receive updated marksmanship training.
Attorneys for Lexington-Richland 5 and attorneys for SLED have also reviewed this policy, Ross said.
“There was a time when, as a superintendent, the hardest decision I had to make was to close a school because of snow,” he said. “Now can I go to bed knowing that I have done everything possible to ensure the safety of all students and staff? Giving these students and teachers that extra layer of protection, I think, allows us to answer that question that we’ve done it all.
The proposal is due for second reading on September 22, meaning those security guards could be armed by the end of next month.
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