School board discusses threats, increased security and changing methods

By Stephan Drew, Editor

Darlington County School Board met on Monday, October 10th, and discussed the series of threats and criminal harassment which plagued schools across our state last week. This new method is called “swatting” and is a criminal harassment tactic of deceiving an emergency service into sending police or an emergency service response team to another person’s address. This is triggered by false reporting of a serious law enforcement emergency, such as a bomb threat, murder, hostage situation, or a false report to a mental health emergency, such as reporting that a person is allegedly suicidal or homicidal and may or may not be armed, among other things.
Superintendent Tim Newman described the new measures the county’s school systems have implemented and stated, “Obviously, that’s at the top of everybody’s thoughts after what happened in the State of South Carolina, in many school districts last week. A wave of these hoax emergency calls about school shootings across South Carolina sent hundreds of police officers into schools on Wednesday, October 5th, as scared students hid behind locked classroom doors. The calls affected more than a dozen districts from Greenville to Charleston. As Newman explained, “We have something called Roundtable Situational Incident Training where Safety Consultants met with Administrators to go over scenarios that could be potentially threatening. How they would react, what they would do, who they would use and how they would impliment the techniques.” He continued, “This is all done through the consistent, systematic way that we are training everybody to respond to emergencies.”
The board also discussed the metal detectors which were placed at the athletic field. “We learned that wind can affect the accuracy of the metal detectors,” Newman said. Newman also reported that they had increased law enforcement presence at athletic events and other large gatherings. Boardmember Charles Govan asked about the cost effectiveness of adding more security personnel. Newman explained that council had discussed increasing law enforcement presence, depending on threat risk and continued by saying, “Money is not our main concern. If we feel like there is a security issue for a home game, we’re going to hire more security.”
Boardmember Wanda Hassler asked about measuring the students’ goal achievements when she asked, “Have you set percentage goals that we’re shooting to reach for this school year?” Newman responded, “Yes, similar to last year, we waited until we had the data. So, yes, we will be doing that. I will set that, with the board, as part of my evaluation process as well.”
Boardmember Jamie Morphis expressed concern over changing the methods of testing and evaluating students. Morphis stated, “I look back to 40 years ago. What’s different now than then and, if it’s so much more difficult, why are we using different paramaters. And, why do we keep changing the tests? Once we learn how to monitor them, then we change it to something else. It just doesn’t make sense.” Noting the upcoming Countywide Legislative Delegation Supper, Newman responded, “When we go to that meeting, let’s make sure we pull one or two things out to talk to them about. Let’s make sure that’s the message we carry at that dinner.”
Newman also suggested inviting state legislators to meet with the school board and hear their concerns before the next Advocacy Conference in December. Boardmember Charles Govan stated, “Even at the meeting I went to the other day, I was really disappointed because I think those type meetings need to do some other things to get input from your boardmembers across the state if you’re going to talk about dealing with the General Assembly. But, it goes past the General Assembly. It’s a layer-effect.” Govan continued, “Teachers, administrators, superintendents are being told from the top what to do. So, to some degree, they don’t have a choice. So, I think sometimes we are talking to the wrong person. The real people we need to be talking to is your congressmen and members of the legislative delegation.”
Newman gave a lengthy presentation on understanding the students’ educational needs and intervening. Where there was 80% in the “Does Not Meet or Exceeds” category, that number is now at 20% after intervention — a 60% drop. There was only a 7% drop in that category for those who did not receive intervention. Eleven out of thirteen schools in the county increased their ELA (English and Language Arts) scores. Seven schools increased their ranking among schools in the state. Darlington County School District improved scores in Algebra 1, U.S. History and Biology EOC (End of Course) exams, and the graduation rate with increase over last year. The district also moved from 39th to 34th in overall EOC scores.
The school district also hired a new Director of Maintenance, Lead Social Worker, Workforce Engagement Coordinator, Evaluation Coordinator, DCIS Principal, Mayo High School Principle and a new Special Education Compliance Officer.
The board went into closed Executive Session for approximately an hour and, when they returned, voted for adjournment. The next meeting of the Darlington County School Board is scheduled for November 14th.

Author: Stephan Drew

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