State money could close school security holes

By: Stephanie Baker Email
By: Stephanie Baker Email

April 25, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---We have new information on a story News 12 has been following this week.

Local lawmakers are fighting to get money that could be used to help protect your children.

It's a possible solution to a security problem News 12 uncovered just weeks after a student was expelled for bringing a loaded gun to Butler High School.

Richmond County has metal detectors and a public safety officer in each high school. We found the security problem is how those resources are being used.

That's where state money could help.

Detectors are here to help officers keep weapons out. But our investigation found, officers weren't always around when the detector alarm went off. School board member Frank Dolan says the problem is, each officer has an entire school to look after, and they can't check everyone every time they walk through the door.

"Evidently we're going to have to ratchet up our policies and procedures," he said. "Because nobody wants an issue here. Nobody."

How can the schools keep a closer eye on who and what is coming inside?

State representative Hardie Davis tells News 12 the answers could come from the Capitol.

"As we set the budget in the House for education and other things, it is our hope that we'll work with our local boards to establish what their priorities are," Rep. Davis said.

One of those priorities is more security funding. The superintendent's office says each detector costs almost $5000, and each officer costs more than $65,000.

That's where the state budget comes in. Lawmakers are asking for several hundred million extra dollars.

"When it comes to education, what we do with the supplemental budget, it's been historically used for this purpose: augment any shortfalls where education is concerned," Rep. Davis said. He says the board can make a special request if they want part of that for security shortfalls.

Here's what that means in terms of our investigation. When officers were not around, we got into three schools. But when they were, we didn't even get to the door. So if the board talks to lawmakers, they could get more money, which could pay for more security.

Lawmakers say they're waiting on a special session to find out if they'll get the supplemental budget. If it passes, and our board wants part of the money for security, they have to ask for it.

The superintendent's office says they're going to keep things the way they are. Sources say some board members are asking lawmakers for help, but the main office would not comment specifically on that.

We did get some answers to our questions, but only after the superintendent's office told us to fax them. You can see our questions and the school's answers by clicking here.

Read our original report here.

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