'Puzzling' new state law leaves school safety leaders questioning SRO candidates

'Puzzling' new state law leaves school safety leaders questioning SRO candidates

LANCASTER COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A new state law allows retirees to get back into classrooms and work as School Resource Officers (SROs) and earn more pay; retired officers will be able to keep their retirement benefits plus earn a full salary, only for one year. It's part of this year's state budget plan, and it's meant to keep children safe at school. However, one South Carolina district calls it 'puzzling' and hopes for better.

Simply put, Lancaster County School District's Director of Safety and Transportation, Bryan Vaughn, wants more qualified SRO applicants. While teachers are back preparing classrooms for the busy year, Vaughn is leading safety training. He's been hiring SROs.

Ten of 24 facilities will have a full-time officer. Each middle school and high school will have its own officer. It leaves elementary students without their own officer, although there are five new hires. One of them is a retired police officer coming on because of the new state law.

"I can see where there might be some benefit as far as putting numbers back available to work in schools," said Vaughn. However, he feels, "it's created a kind of finite field of officers, and as a school district and as an employer you want to be able to hire the best fit for the school that you're serving."

Vaughn is skeptical because he wishes retirees could have returned to work at any law enforcement job, to free-up more qualified officers to get into schools that cannot now. He's more confident in his district's policy of hiring retired officers for 10 months, while classes are in, instead of having them salaried and hired for an entire year. He feels it's a system more schools should consider.

"I think the reasons that schools don't always have certified officers is number one, there's been a huge shortage at the law enforcement level. A lot of law enforcement agencies can't fill those positions. That's why I think the way the legislature did that law is kind of puzzling," Vaughn explained.

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