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BCSD SROs, safety and security team members ‘set the bar high’

Published Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Summer has ended, and once again, students are lining hallways and filling classrooms within Berkeley County School District.

Many of our schools were without the shuffling of shoes squeaking across the floor for a few months, but it’s simply wrong to believe there was nothing happening.

While students dove into pools, played with friends and attended summer camps, school safety and security officials were attending trainings, learning new best practices and preparing for another year dedicated to the safety of children.

“We are blessed with some very good, very well-trained school resource officers,” said BCSD Director of Safety and Security Tim Knight. “Our parents should feel really comfortable knowing that our school resource officers take their job very seriously. They don’t want to fail in their job. They want exactly what we want.”

In August school SROs participated in the fifth annual summer SRO training. The training was one of several ways Knight and his team worked to prepare for the upcoming school year.

Knight said the summer training centers around active shooter scenarios but has expanded offerings each year. He said officers learning and/or practicing de-escalation techniques and learning more about mental health have become just as important.

“Over the last couple years, there has been more effort to increase mental health training for law enforcement. That’s what we started incorporating into our summer training program with them,” Knight said.

The goal is prevention. When it comes to preventing situations that pose harm to children, you will hear Knight say you can never prepare enough. It’s not just practicing a response to an active shooter or going through and troubleshooting a list of worst-case scenarios.

“It’s what can we do as law enforcement and district officials to help find those students who may be struggling or may be having an issue, basically getting to the root of the problem before it explodes and turns into something violent,” Knight said.

That focus on prevention is what led Knight and his team to Columbine High School over the summer. It’s also what prompted a joint-effort with the district’s technology office to develop a button in the BCSD app for anonymously reporting concerns.

The BCSD safety and security officers were among hundreds of industry professionals visiting Columbine as part of a conference Knight described as emotional, inspirational and informative.

Knight said there wasn’t a dry eye in the group as the former principal of Columbine High and the SWAT commander that responded to the 1999 incident spoke about response, recovery and the lasting impact.

“I will do everything I can to keep our students, keep our staff safe. …Do all I can do to prevent a tragic event like that from happening in one of our schools. It was sad. It was very emotional. But the way Principal (Frank) DeAngelis spoke, it was very inspirational. …He made you take the tragic and heartbreaking events of that day as motivation with information on prevention.”

Knight said while he hopes for the best, one thing he learned is the importance of planning not just for prevention, not just for the worst-case scenario, but also the aftermath.

“Students after the event, years later are still struggling to be a success in life. That event affected them so much personally that they couldn’t function. …One event can impact generations. That is something that I hadn’t thought a lot about. It gives me another way to look at what we are doing and see if we are doing enough.”

While Knight and those on the BCSD safety and security team work hard with SROs and district administrators to “set the bar high,” he says he will never reach a point where he’s satisfied.

“We can talk all day long about everything we are doing and all the proactive steps we are taking, but at the end of the day, I think that it’s dangerous for any of us to slow down, look around and say, ‘we’ve done all we can do.’”

“There’s always something more that we could or should be doing.”

Brian Troutman