Marc Sosne, superintendent of the Clover school district, says administrators are doing everything in their power to make children safe while at school.
When Sosne started his career in education in the 1970s, school security discussions weren’t what they are today.
“Very rarely did we talk about issues about safety and security because they were pretty much non-issues,” Sosne said.
Sosne said he remembers the day that changed. It was April 20, 1999, when he got a report of a shooting at Columbine High School. Two teenagers killed 13 people and wounded more than 20 others before killing themselves.
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“I remember sitting there dumbfounded that this could happen,” Sosne said. “It changed the world as I knew it in public education. My whole career from that day on has been worrying about and thinking about how do we make our schools as safe and secure as humanly possible.”
It changed the world as I knew it in public education. My whole career from that day on has been worrying about and thinking about how do we make our schools as safe and secure as humanly possible.
Marc Sosne, Clover school district superintendent
School security is now a top issue on the minds of parents, educators and community members nationwide. On Feb. 14, 17 people were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Nikolaus Cruz, 19, is facing 17 charges of premeditated murder in the mass shooting.
Sosne came to Clover in 2007 and said district administration continually discusses security in schools.
“We are very open to suggestions, but the more important thing I can share with the community is that we didn’t start this conversation last week ... nor did we start it after the shooting in Sandy Hook,” Sosne said during Monday’s school board meeting. “This conversation is ongoing in our school district, and we are always looking for ways we can do things better.”
‘Protecting our future’
Clover parent Olivia Davidson said she would like to see the district do more to protect students, such as increasing law officer presence in the schools.
“Hearing school shootings every day, it’s terrifying to send my kids to school,” Davidson said. “My children are the most important thing in my life. If we’re not protecting them, we’re not protecting our future.”
Jessica Cody, who has a 12-year-old son in a Clover middle school and a 15-year-old son at the Ninth Grade Campus, said she has seen the district take steps in recent years to improve security at school entrances and other areas.
Cody said events like the Florida shooting bring security concerns to the forefront.
“It makes you play out every scenario in your head as a parent,” she said. Cody said the district “is heading in the right direction.”
When Clover passed a bond referendum in 2007 to build new schools, those schools were designed with secure entrances, Sosne said. Visitors had to go into an office area and check in with school staff before being allowed further into the building.
“A number of our buildings did not have those types of secure entries,” he said.
It took five years to get all of Clover’s school entrances up to the same standard, Sosne said. Now, visitors must check in and scan their ID into a system that provides an instant background check before they are allowed further into the facility.
Since 2007, Sosne said he has met with members of local law enforcement, Secret Service, FBI and independent security contractors to evaluate where the district can improve school security.
York County Sheriff’s Office deputies and school staff also undergo active shooter training in the schools, he said.
“Those conversations happen every year, and they don’t stop,” Sosne said. “By having conversations publicly and on an ongoing basis, not only are we better prepared, but we send a message to someone that might be thinking of wreaking havoc in a school setting that there might be easier targets than ours.”
The Clover school district has committed $2 million from its capital improvements budget to upgrade and improve school security systems, said Bryan Dillon, spokesperson for the district.
The money will pay for items such as improving exterior doors and locking systems and improving security camera coverage throughout the district as part of the district’s comprehensive security plan, Dillon said.
The plans have been in place since the fall after administration met with local law enforcement, FBI and individual security consultants to analyze the district’s security measures, Dillon said. The district will begin working on the improvements in the spring and hope to finish at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
Clover school board member Sherri Ciurlik said parents, students and community members should also report anything concerning they hear or see, including if a student needs help or if threats are made. She said the district’s mobile app allows for anonymous tips to be sent directly to school administration.
“Communication is key; it’s a partnership,” Ciurlik said. “Nothing happens in a vacuum. If someone hears something we encourage you to say something.”
Cody said it is a conversation that has to involve parents, students, educators and community members.
“Everybody has to work together on this,” she said.
Clover also has five paid, armed officers in schools and additional safety personnel at Clover High School, Sosne said.
“Their presence in schools does more than provide security, they are very preventative in building relationships with students and helping overt lots of issues and problems on an ongoing basis,” he said.
Sosne said Clover has focused on being proactive.
“We have done everything that experts have told us are preventative in nature,” he said. “Unless the children feel secure and unless the parents feel secure sending their children to us, the learning doesn’t take place the way it needs to.”
Amanda Harris: 803-329-4082