EVANS, Ga. (WFXG) - School has been in session in Columbia County for several weeks, and parents may have noticed they are receiving more communication this year about incidents taking place on campuses. 

Traditionally, the district relied on the local sheriff's department to handle situations such as fights and threats on school grounds. This year, the county implemented a new police force into the school system.

Penny Jackson, Assistant Superintendent says the effects of having a regular police presence in schools are already yielding positive results.

"For [police] to be [at schools] daily, in the classrooms, in the hallways, mingling with our kids," she says, "[they] are accessible." Jackson says the visible presence of dedicated officers serves as a reminder that safety is a top priority.

“We just have that no-nonsense," she says. "We’re going to hold our kids accountable. Of course, we’re going to follow the code of conduct, give them the due process that we always have, but we’re going to keep our kids safe.”

Jackson adds having a school police department also allows the county to make better use of other Sheriff's Office resources, as deputies are able to be out in the community rather than responding to calls in the schools.

As a result of the increased police presence in schools, Jackson says parents should not be surprised to hear about more incidents than in previous years. This, she says, just means the police department is finding more, and the county is always working to keep parents informed.

“We’ve really been, from day one, talking about safety being a shared responsibility. And that’s shared not only with our students and staff but also with our community and parents. So when we’ve had these incidents, for example, threats, we’re doing our very best to get that information out to parents.”

Jackson reminds parents to have open communication with their children and to remind them that making threats of school violence or getting in fights at school will not be tolerated. 

“If there’s an altercation at school, our police are there. They’re going to charge. Even if you’re joking, to make a threat, that can have some consequences that are long-term.”

Jackson asserts the cost to fund the new department was nominal, thanks to the reallocation of other resources from years past.

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