Plan for elementary school SROs advances in Williamson County
Jan 7, 2013 07:51 PM
Reported By Chris Bundgaard, Reporter - bio | email
Reported By Heather Jensen, Reporter - bio | email
WILLIAMSON COUNTY, Tenn. -
Williamson County is one step closer to having an armed officer in every school.
The county's budget committee unanimously approved a funding recommendation in the name of school safety late Monday afternoon.
The recommended $2.5 million could now be approved by county commissioners for hiring, training, and placement of school resource officers in the county's elementary schools.
Currently, officers employed by the sheriff's department are assigned to middle and high schools only.
Monday afternoon's vote is believed to be the first official action taken by government officials in Tennessee in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting last month in Newtown, Connecticut.
"It's a great idea because we will have people there if anything ever happened," said fourth grade student Elizabeth Kready.
Despite her young age, Kready is not alone in her support of the proposal, which appears to be widespread.
School Superintendent Mike Looney told Nashville's News 2, "It was a quick response in Williamson County that we want to do everything possible to provide a safe learning environment."
The initial multi-million dollar funding provides an officer for each of the county's 24 elementary schools and 8 additional elementary schools in the Franklin Special School District in the county. The money will come from tax dollars in the county's reserve fund, but it will only cover costs through June of 2013.
"I'm always worried about funding, obviously," Looney said, "but at the end of the day, what's more important than the safety of our children? These are dollars that are going to be well spent."
"How we continue that funding process in years down the road will be a new ball game," County Mayor Rogers Anderson said, adding, "[but] I am convinced we are all doing the right thing."
County and school leaders hope federal or state funding will come through by the fall. Getting the officers in the schools is also a concern. "We don't know how quick we can get them evaluated, get 'em tested, get 'em through the training they have to have," said Sheriff Jeff Long. "We have to buy the equipment for 'em. We have to buy the vehicles for 'em."
Each officer must meet the state requirement of a psychological evaluation, as well as local requirements that include academy training, specialized school resource officer training, and a recommended two years of experience.
Applications are currently being accepted. Several in-house candidates have applied and may already meet the requirements.
"It's a different hire. We have to be very careful, I think, about who we put in our schools," Long said. "If we can find the ones that already meet the qualifications, go ahead and put those in some of the schools and fill in as we go."
If the proposal gets final approval, schools in outlying areas, where emergency response times can be longer, would be staffed first. The sheriff's department would then work inward.
The Williamson County Commission is expected to vote on the SRO proposal Monday, January 14.