CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Charleston County School District Officials said they are hiring school security officers to fill in the gaps at schools that will not have a school resource officer for the upcoming school year.
Although both positions are armed and tasked with protecting the school, Michael Reidenbach, the district’s Executive Director of Security and Emergency Management, said there is a distinction between the positions.
For starters, SROs are sworn law-enforcement officers and SSOs are private security officers contracted by the district.
SROs are first and foremost police officers and protectors of the campus, but they also serve as informal mediators and counselors with students, Reidenbach said. SROs can also go into a classroom and talk about a career in law enforcement, or certain topics that relate to police work.
SSOs, on the other hand, are strictly focused on the physical security of the campus largely related to external threats. SSOs do not engage in student issues and would not intervene in a fight unless someone’s life was in danger, Reidenbach said.
“In reality, the SSO is typically for outward-facing, looking at the physical security of the campus, external threats, where the SRO is spending a lot of the time both in and out of the building, cultivating both internal and external relationships,” Reidenbach said.
SSO positions are also more expensive for the district because the SRO contracts are shared with law enforcement.
For some background, district officials said there are 60 filled SRO positions serving the district this year coming from five different police agencies: Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, Charleston Police Department, North Charleston Police Department, Mount Pleasant Police Department and Sullivan’s Island Police Department.
They’re planning to have SSOs at 23 different schools, but currently have four vacancies.
Reidenbach said they are prioritizing meeting a high standard of experience and training for these positions, rather than rushing to fill the four vacancies. He said they are interested in hiring people with prior law enforcement or military experience.
“We’re working as quickly as possible to fill all the billets but doing so in a way that ensures that we know we have folks that are well trained, well experienced and have the proper demeanor to be able to do the job effectively,” Reidenbach said.
Despite their differences, SROs and SSOs learn together about working with students who have special needs, de-escalation tactics, and school district emergency procedures.
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