A Hall County Schools security employee is now authorized to carry a handgun while fulfilling the duties of his job.
At its meeting Monday night, the school board unanimously approved a policy allowing Andy Betancourt, the school district’s safety and security assistant, to carry a weapon at the district office and while visiting school campuses.
Kevin Bales, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, said the policy is effective immediately. Betancourt wrote in an email to The Times Monday night that he will be carrying a 9mm handgun while on the job with the school district.
School board Chairman Nath Morris estimated after the meeting that Betancourt would be at the district office located at 711 Green St. about 75 percent of his time on the job.
“We have SROs (school resource officers) protecting the safety of our schools, but the safety of our workforce also comes into the central office,” Morris said. “Now, we have the opportunity to make sure we have some frontline security at the front door and keep our district office safe. He’s doing safety audits and security audits, and so some of his time will be in schools.”
Betancourt’s office is literally located near the front entrance of the school district’s central office.
Superintendent Will Schofield introduced the policy at a board meeting last month, saying he wanted the policy to be approved for only Betancourt. He said he did not foresee the policy expanding to include other employees in the future and asked for the authority to rescind Betancourt’s authority to carry a handgun if he ever felt it necessary to do so.
Betancourt, who began his job with the school district in October, served with the Miami Police Department from 1984 until his retirement in 2014. For 28 of those 30 years, he worked as a crime scene investigator, with responsibilities that included photography, evidence searches, processing for fingerprints, evidence collection and preservation and crime scene sketching. He was trained to carry a firearm for part of the time he was in that job.