County Council to look into security on school grounds

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By Stan Welch

The Anderson County Council met on an off date last week, moving their normal Tuesday evening meeting to Thursday, because of the New Year’s holiday.

In response to the recent mass shooting and murder of twenty students and teachers at a Connecticut grammar school, several mothers from Anderson appeared before the Council, seeking their support of their efforts to place at least one armed police officer or security guard in every school in the county.

Holly Carithers, whose children attend school in District Five, spoke for the small group, and said that they wanted to start a conversation about overall school security, as well as mandating armed personnel on each campus.

Chairman Crowder reminded Ms. Carithers that the County Council appropriates no funds for schools, a point which Carithers acknowledged. “Yes, sir, but we would ask that this Council express their support for the idea, and give us some guidance in how to proceed.”

Councilwoman Floyd suggested that the funds received by the school board from fees-in-lieu-of-taxes be diverted to pay for the costs of additional security, while Councilman Tommy Dunn stated that the county school board was already investigating alternatives, and additional measures.

“They started on that the day after the Newtown shootings, and they are looking at more than just armed guards.” Councilman Tom Allen added that the county school board has a meeting scheduled for January 22, if anyone wanted to attend.

Allen also pointed out that the use of school resource officers (SRO) in District Five costs approximately $600,000, and doesn’t include the elementary schools, which number eleven. At fifty thousand dollars per SRO, that would add $550,000 in that district alone.

Following considerable discussion, the Council expressed its consensus opinion, though not in an official form, of the idea of increasing armed security on school grounds.

Carithers thanked them, saying, “We want our children to be safe and we won’t stop until they are.”

Speaking to The Journal later, two of the women, Denise DeMartini and Jennifer Opper, explained that they both have children in District One schools, DeMartini with children at Wren Middle School and both with children at Spearman Elementary School; and that they want increased security.

DeMartini lived in a small town near Newtown CT before moving to Florida several years ago, and then here. “That area is a lot like this area, with small towns and very rural. If it could happen there, it can happen here. We don’t want to wait until it does,” she said.

Two of the four women also revealed that they have concealed weapons permits that allow them to be armed in certain locations and circumstances.

As is customary, the Council’s first official action was to elect a new chairman and vice chairman. In a shift of leadership, finance committee chairman Francis Crowder was the sole nominee for the chairman’s position, and was elected by a vote of six to one, with Councilwoman Gracie Floyd opposed.

District Seven Councilwoman Cindy Wilson was the sole nominee as vice chairman, and was elected by a vote of six to nothing, with Councilwoman Floyd abstaining.