Polk school security task force organizes

Published 9:08 am Thursday, January 24, 2013

The school security task force held its first meeting Wednesday, Jan. 23. Pictured from left is Polk County School Board Chair Geoff Tennant, N.C. State Trooper Darryl Bailey (hidden), interim Polk County Manager Marche Pittman, IPDC (Isothermal Planning and Development Commision) director Jim Edwards, Saluda Police Chief James Cantrell, Tryon Police Chief Jeff Arrowood, Columbus Police Chief Chris Beddingfield, Polk Schools Superintendent Bill Miller and Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill. (photo by Leah Justice)

Tour of schools scheduled for Feb. 13, 14 and 15

A newly formed school security task force sat down for the first time to organize a plan for better school security in Polk County.

The Polk County Board of Commissioners created the task force on Jan. 7 following the Newtown, Ct. shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The task force’s first meeting was held Wednesday, Jan. 23 and consisted of Polk County School Superintendent Bill Miller, Polk County School Board Chair Geoff Tennant, Polk County Sheriff Donald Hill, interim Polk County Manager Marche Pittman, Columbus Police Chief Chris Beddingfield, Saluda Police Chief James Cantrell, Tryon Police Chief Jeff Arrowood, N.C. State Trooper Darryl Bailey and facilitator Jim Edwards, Isothermal Planning and Development Commission director.

Members of the task force discussed a variety of topics including what organizations the group will need input from and what risks are factors in Polk County.

The task force agreed that a risk assessment of all school facilities is needed first and scheduled to conduct those assessments at 10 school facilities on Feb. 13, Feb. 14 and Feb. 15.

The facilities that will be assessed include Polk County High School, Polk County Middle School, Polk Central Elementary School, Saluda Elementary School, Sunny View Elementary School, Tryon Elementary School, Forbes Preschool, the Virtual College, the alternative school and Stearns.

Edwards said the task force will need to look at current policies at each school and what the school board can do to strengthen or tighten up the policies. Tennant and Miller said all school staff has identification cards with the high school being strict about wearing them and the elementary schools may not be as strict.

“Locking down schools can become a very complicated issue when you are trying to have an open school,” Miller said.

Beddingfield said it’s going to be a magic line that needs to be drawn because there’s one extreme where you have schools locked down with a gate like a prison and another extreme to be wide open. He said most law enforcement officers will tend to think that line should be tighter on security.

Miller said he’s for nothing and he’s against nothing. He said he’s been working for schools for 25 to 30 years and watched America spend money even if they don’t know what to do.

“That’s a complicated problem,” Miller said. “There’s probably not a solution. Just doing something to say we did it is not a good answer.”

He added that the others wouldn’t believe how many calls and emails he’s received from companies trying to take advantage of the situation to make money.

Tennant said the board could come up with all kinds of recommendations but it’s Pittman who will have to go out and find the money.