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New SRO added to help cover growing school district

Leaders within Colleton County have decided to add an additional School Resource Officer to the county’s existing program, with the focus of the new officer being the district’s elementary schools.

Colleton County School District now has six SRO’s working full-time for the current school year.

Last year, there were five SRO’s assigned to schools throughout the district.

The additional SRO has been assigned to help cover the district’s elementary schools, as there are six elementary schools throughout Colleton County.

The SRO program is managed through the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office. Funding for the officers, including their salaries and training, are jointly paid for through the school district’s fiscal year funds and through the sheriff’s office and its fiscal year funding.

The sheriff’s office receives its funding as part of the Colleton County Council’s allocation of funds and its annual budgeting process.

According to Sgt. Ricky Valentine, there were two law enforcement officers assigned to Colleton County High School in the 2017-2018 school year. There were also two SRO’s assigned to Colleton County Middle School, with an additional SRO labeled as a “floater.” Valentine is the supervisor of the district’s SRO program.

According to him, the previously labeled “floater SRO” was based at the high school, said Valentine.

“The recommendation was made last year to relocate that floater SRO into an elementary school. On top of that, the school district also began looking at our assignments,” he said. “Since Forest Hills Elementary School has the largest student population of any elementary school in the district, we now have that ‘floater’ housed at FHE. The additional new SRO also helps with the elementary schools.”

According to Valentine, the role of an School Resource Officer stays the same no matter the school that they are assigned to. “They are there first, and foremost, as a law enforcement officer,” he said. “Secondly, the officers help get involved with students as a counselor. Children can go through times of need.”

The third responsibility that an SRO focuses on, he said, is law-related education. This includes bullying, stranger safety, drug awareness and substance abuse. “The audience is different based on the age of the students, but the message is the same,” said Valentine.

The SRO’s for the current school year are: Sgt. Ricky Valentine, supervisor for the SRO unit (elementary schools) stationed at Forest Hills; Cpl. James Brown (elementary schools) stationed at Hendersonville; Cpl. Chad Cummings (CCHS); Sgt. Shannon Thomason (CCHS); Cpl. Jimmy Wiggins (CCMS); and Deputy Alysse Janicki (CCMS).

Sgt Valentine and Cpl Brown are stationed at these elementary schools to help with the demographics of responding to the additional elementary schools; Black Street, Bells, Northside and Cottageville.

Janicki is new to the SRO unit; however, she has been a deputy within the sheriff’s office for several years, said Valentine.

“Sheriff Strickland wants to thank and recognize so many people involved in making a very important advancement for the schools here in Colleton County,” said Tony Jones, public information officer for the sheriff’s office.

“With budget approval from the state, as well as a lot of hard work by our county administration, county council and school superintendent, as well as the investment of training and manpower from Sheriff Strickland the Colleton County Sheriff’s office … there will be an additional SRO in our school system this year!”

According to Jones, Strickland believes the SRO program is “very important,” having the “ability to influence and assist the students in Colleton County Schools.”

Strickland says the SRO program gives students additional role models and increase school security.

“Parents can have an increased peace of mind, knowing that it was important to us all to have another SRO in our schools for this year,” said Strickland, in a written statement.

In addition to being certified law enforcement officers, the district’s SRO’s receive additional training on how to deal with children and school staff. This training is through the state Criminal Justice Academy, and also focuses on large safety topics, such as active shooter scenarios.

Valentine encourages parents to contact each school and that assigned SRO, should they have any questions or concerns.

Heather Walters (1410 Posts)