Some Aiken County schools were on high alert Friday when additional law enforcement officers were present on campus.
Additional officers from the Aiken County Sheriff's Office and the Aiken Department of Public Safety were on-hand during the day Friday, which was the last day of class for county students before Christmas break.
Dr. Beth Everitt, superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools, said the school system requested extra officers for Friday.
“We got word there were some rumors going around yesterday,” she said on Friday. “Anytime we have just a concern or a rumor, they're very cooperative and are more than willing to pitch in and provide a little extra security. That's what happened today.”
The Sheriff's Office placed extra deputies at Midland Valley High School and Silver Bluff High School “out of an abundance of caution,” according to Capt. Troy Elwell, who said there were no specific threats at either school.
“We are merely there to ensure the safety of students and faculty on the last day of school prior to the winter break,” he said.
On Thursday, two elementary schools in Aiken were put on lockdown for a short period of time.
Chukker Creek Elementary School was put on lockdown about 9:30 a.m. after an older student was seen running across the playground, according to a Public Safety report. A woman who volunteers at the school later came forward and said it was her son, who is home-schooled, that was seen on the campus.
The family reportedly lives in Woodside, which is next to the campus. The teenager had just gotten his beginner's permit and drove his mother to the school, and while walking home, decided to cut through the school's playground. He later apologized for the misunderstanding.
Also on Thursday, Millbrook Elementary School was put on lockdown after a domestic dispute between a school employee and a 33-year-old man. The man was later detained for disrupting school.
Less than a week after a gunman walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and opened fire, killing 20 children and six employees, schools were already on high alert. Based on the more than 40 comments on the Sheriff's Office Facebook page, the extra security was appreciated.
“It was very comforting to see the deputies at MVHS this morning. Thank you, for taking this matter serious,” one person commented.
“You gave me peace of mind on sending my girls to school this morning,” another person commented.
One person even said “there should be one (officer) at all schools.”
“Last Friday was very rough for our entire country,” said Sgt. Jake Mahoney, of Aiken Public Safety. “Especially after events yesterday (Thursday) with two lockdowns, officer presence tends to go a long way to prevent crime and calm nerves.”
Mahoney said officers were making a “concerted effort” to make it to every school in the city, which includes two high schools, three middle schools and four elementary schools.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime beat for the Aiken Standard. He is a graduate of Clemson University and hails from Williston.
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