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School resource officers to protect every NHC elementary school through this school year

The December massacre at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shook the nation – and caused school boards across the country to re-think elementary school security.  As counties around the country grapple with whether to amend their security policies, New Hanover County officials have decided to implement a short-term solution that puts safety first.

The question for local leaders:  Is putting a law enforcement officer in every elementary school an effective response to the Newtown tragedy and a reasonable use of taxpayer money?

At last night’s meeting of New Hanover County Commissioners, Chairman Woody White recognized a similar discussion was happening in county commission chambers all across the country.

“We’re going to hear a lot of diverse opinions from the nation, probably from around the world over the next few months," said White.

And this national conversation could inform the county’s course of action.   

“Before our school system and our county adopt a long-term policy," said White, "I think, as I’ve said, we need the benefit of that dialogue.”

In the short-term, the Board of Commissioners voted to approve up to $634,000 for extra manpower from the Sheriff’s Department. 

The City of Wilmington and Kure Beach town officials have stepped forward to offer personnel since the idea of putting an officer in every elementary school was raised last week

County Manager Chris Coudriet is asking Carolina Beach and Wrightsville Beach for similar contributions. 

“And that direct cost should be offset meaningfully by the fact that we’re getting force multiplication by the city and the beach towns,” said Coudriet

Those requests will be considered over the next few days.  Coudriet says the county will also ask the School Board for up to 50 percent of the county’s end cost.

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.