‘Misunderstanding’ of security officers in Horry County schools reason for resistance

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – After Horry County Council and the Horry County School Board couldn’t agree on a contract for school resource officers this year, new private security guards started in the schools Wednesday.

The start of the school year in Horry County has brought several changes. New schools, new bus routes, and one of the biggest changes, 21 new faces throughout the district’s schools.

“They presented us with a challenge,” Horry County Schools Spokesperson Teal Britton says of council members.

Britton says the school district chose to hire a private security company to man the schools and protect students after Horry County Council asked the school board to pay 90% of the bill for their officers.

“When faced with a huge economic challenge like that, and not a great deal of negotiation, we simply started looking for additional answers,” explains Britton.

The district chose USSA, a private security company that has worked with the school district in the past.

Horry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey.

District Superintendent Dr. Rick Maxey admits there’s been a stigma around the words “security guard” since the announcement.

“I think there’s been some misunderstanding that these people went through a brief SLED course – of course, they have complied with the SLED regulations and gone through training – but they bring a vast majority of law enforcement experience,” justifies Dr. Maxey.

Dr. Maxey says the new school security officers that USSA will provide have an average of about 12 years of law enforcement experience because the majority of them are retired police officers or military.

The contract with the district requires every guard to complete SLED training, in addition to the company’s own basic training and active shooter training.

Guards will also be required to learn CPR, how to use an AED machine, and how to work with special needs students – an element of training former SROs did not complete.

“USSA provides training, they have to go through SLED training, but what you also need to realize is when you have this many people who have come to us with prior law enforcement experience, they have gone to the police academies in departments across the country so they bring a lot to the table,” states Dr. Maxey.

While the superintendent says the district’s preference would be to work with all law enforcement agencies, he’s confident in the private company and the district says it’ll continue to look for what the best option is for the safety of its students in the future.

“Focus less attention on the contracts and who initiated what and what happened along the way,” urges Dr. Maxey. “We’re getting ready to open schools, and we’ve got trained men and women at every post through this contract. We are thrilled to have the other SROs that are provided through the other municipalities returning to their post, and we’re anticipating a great year with safety at the forefront.”

Britton says the school doesn’t have background checks, résumés, or any personnel information for the guards because it’s handled by the company, which mirrors the SROs the district employs from other municipalities.

News13 attempted for two weeks to get comment from the private security company on how it selects guards and what experience the new guards have in schools.

USSA has yet to return our phone calls.