Law-enforcement officers will be a permanent fixture in Beaufort County elementary schools, the Sheriff's Office announced Tuesday.
Called community resource officers in the elementary schools, they will be solely dedicated to monitoring the schools and will continue to provide the services at no cost to the Beaufort County School District.
There will be one officer for each of the district's five school clusters, Lt. Alfredo Givens and Col. David Brown told the Beaufort County Board of Education. The officers will rotate among the different elementary schools in their zone every day with a two-fold purpose: to increase security and to help students become more comfortable with law enforcement officers.
"I think it's a very practical approach by the Beaufort County Sheriff's Office in the sense that they recognize the need to have law enforcement and young people better connected," said chief student services officer Gregory McCord.
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The officers, who started in August at the beginning of the new school year, are an expansion of the elementary-school resource officer program launched in January. Starting Jan. 8, the Sheriff's Office sent deputies to the elementary schools during their routine patrols.
Under that system, the same officer could not routinely check the same schools, and they were only in the schools for about an hour during the day.
Under the expanded program, the officers' presence will be much longer, and the same officer will monitor the same schools. That way the officer and the students and staff can get to know one another.
It will be more similar to the full-time school resource officers who have been in the middle and high schools for the past 18 years, Brown said.
Givens said the officers will also take on a larger educational role in the schools. He said they are creating lessons about local laws and safety to teach to small groups in fifth, seventh and ninth grade.
"We want to be proactive in getting these children acclimated to dealing with law enforcement and for them to know we are their friends, not their enemies," Givens said. "We want to get away from dealing with these children in a negative light."
McCord said the response from elementary school principals about the program has been positive and encouraging.
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