CHESTER COUNTY, S.C. - For the first time, middle school students in Chester County will see officers on their campuses when they return this fall to class.
Concerns from parents about bullying, threats and assaults helped drive the changes.
On Monday, Chester County's newly appointed Sheriff Max Dorsey signed an agreement alongside school Superintendent Angela Bain and County Supervisor Shane Stuart.
The agreement provides money for five school resource officers.
Dorsey, a graduate of Chester High School, who has school-aged kids, said parents need a peace of mind about school safety.
"We recognize that there are concerned parents, and we're just hoping that our presence there in the schools will relieve some of that stress on the parents," Dorsey said.
In 2015, the sheriff and school superintendent at the time chose to replace SROs with private security on all campuses.
At the time, Sheriff Alex Underwood was furious, calling the decision “a slap in the face.”
Columbia-based firm Defender initially provided nine private security guards to patrol campuses in Chester County.
They could not make arrests but could detain students during an incident. Law enforcement was usually called and deputies would have to be dispatched to school campuses.
After former Superintendent Agnes Slayman left the district, Bain worked with Underwood to return SROs to high schools.
The new agreement keeps private security guards only at elementary schools and sheriff's deputies will be everywhere else.
"It's very important that our children know that they're safe, and that our parents know that their children are safe," Bain said.
Dorsey is currently looking to fill the positions and wants the new officers in place by the time school starts.
SROs hired in the past will get paid half of their annual salaries by the school district, and Chester County will pay the other half.
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