A fifth-grade student at an Anderson County school on Monday took a gun away from an armed security guard who was employed by the same security company Chester County school officials hired last month to replace sheriff’s deputies as school resource officers.
In announcing the move to replace the four sheriff’s deputies beginning in July, Superintendent Agnes Slayman said the decision to hire Defender Services of Columbia would place an “experienced and highly-trained” officer on each of the district’s nine campuses.
“Defender Services has strict guidelines of who qualifies to be a school security officer,” she said in April, adding that the officers would be “former military personnel, state troopers, retired law enforcement, etc.”
The move prompted outrage from Chester County Sheriff Alex Underwood, who said security guards are not as well-trained as police and that, regardless of the presence of more security guards, students and teachers would be less safe.
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Efforts to reach Chester school officials and Defender Services officials were unsuccessful Wednesday. Underwood declined to comment on the incident at the Anderson County elementary school.
On Monday, the security guard working for Defender Services was sitting on a bench between two students at Varennes Elementary School in Anderson, said Kyle Newton, spokesman for Anderson County School District F. While the guard was talking to one of the students, the other student was able to remove the officer’s service weapon from his hip holster, Newton said.
The student had the gun in his possession for eight to 10 seconds before the guard realized what happened and took the gun back into his possession, Newton said. The gun was not fired and no one was injured.
The student was disciplined, he said, and school officials expressed their displeasure with the incident to Defender Services officials.
“They were told (the security guard) was not allowed back at school,” Newton said.
The school district – the largest of five in Anderson County – maintains certified police officers as school resource officers at all high schools and middle schools, he said, and a mix of police and Defender Services guards at its elementary schools.
Until Monday’s incident, Newton said, school officials had been pleased with Defender Services’ employees.
“Overall,” he said, “it has been a great relationship.”
Anderson County deputies took information about the incident, sheriff’s spokeswoman Lt. Sheila Cole said, but did not file an incident report and are not investigating.
Andrew Dys • 803-329-4065