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School district ousts security company after guard leaves weapon behind

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By Tony Kukulich

For the second time this year, a security guard left a firearm unattended in Beaufort County School District (BCSD) school.

In response, the district immediately terminated its contract with the agency previously engaged to provide armed security for the district’s elementary schools.

“The board of education authorized the superintendent to immediately terminate the armed security guard services contract with Security Solutions of America – formerly GuardOne,” said Candace Bruder, BCSD director of communication, in an email to The Island News.

The most recent incident occurred Sept. 20 at Hilton Head Island School for the Creative Arts (HHISCA).

“It was reported to administration that our school’s security guard left their weapon unattended in a staff bathroom this morning,” wrote Nikki Luca, HHISCA principal, in a notification to the parents of children at the school. “At no time did any students come into contact with this weapon.”

According to Bruder, the district is transitioning to a new security services provider, Hilton Head Island-based Coastal Security Services Inc. (CCSI), and expects to be fully staffed within a few weeks.

The contract will pay CCSI just over $1 million for services through June 30, 2022.

During the transition, local law enforcement agencies will make routine visits to the schools. City of Beaufort Police Chief Dale McDorman confirmed that his officers will perform school walk-throughs “as often as possible during the course of the day.” The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office is following a similar course of action.

“The Sheriff’s Office has a team of community resource officers that will continue to visit the elementary schools as they have been,” said Maj. Angela Vien, spokesperson for the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. “Our operations in the elementary schools did not change when the school district hired private security to service the schools.”

In February, a teacher at Beaufort’s Mossy Oaks Elementary School discovered a loaded, 9 mm handgun in a staff bathroom. At the time, Bruder said the weapon was unattended for about three minutes. No students came into contact with the weapon in that incident.

In the wake of that incident, the guard who lost control of his weapon was immediately fired, and the district’s board of education put GuardOne Security, as the firm was known at the time, on notice.

In October 2019, the Beaufort County School District Board of Education directed the district to pursue the use of a private firm to provide armed security guards for the district’s elementary schools. Prior to the execution of the contract with GuardOne, middle schools and high schools in the district had school resource officers (SRO) assigned, but five community resource officers were shared among the district’s 22 campuses.

A contract with S&S Management Group, LLC – doing business as GuardOne Security – to provide armed security services was authorized by the board in October 2021. GuardOne began operations shortly thereafter. The board further directed that the use of a private security firm should eventually be phased out in favor of using SROs from local law enforcement agencies.

“The board and district are open to staffing new SROs at all our elementary schools,” Bruder said. “However, the problem is that local law enforcement agencies cannot provide them at this time.”

Attempts to reach Security Services of America for comment were unsuccessful as of press time.

Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He can be reached at tony.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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