NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — On Monday, Governor Bill Lee announced a sweeping $140 million budget for Tennessee school security.
The money would safeguard schools, provide for behavioral counseling and develop a comprehensive statewide network monitoring schools for threats.
A key component of the governor’s bill would be the addition of at least one armed officer in every single school—public and private—in the state.
Jack Byrd is the CEO of Solaren Risk Management, one of the top security agencies in the state that provides armed and other security for public and private venues across the state. Byrd’s security firm employs almost 500 security officers.
When asked about the concern of parents who don’t want their child in a school where there is a gun, Byrd responded, “You don’t want your kid to be in a school with a guy with a gun with bad intentions either—and the only way to stop that is a good guy with a gun.”
Byrd added, “93% of these were planned, they were premeditated—these are not crimes of passion that just erupt and a moment of violence, these are things that had identifiers out there and if it is predictable, it is preventable.”
While Byrd applauded the governor’s decision to put a school resource officer (SRO) in every school in the state, he said uniform training is necessary and is not currently the practice. According to Byrd, different officers have different levels of training and utilize different law enforcement equipment.
He said a consistent course like those offered by the National Association of School Resource Officers is recommended and utilized by his organization—adding the training the officers receive as an SRO is vital because working in a school is a very different environment than working on the streets.
“It’s one of the most fun populations to serve, it can also be one of the most rewarding and one of the most difficult. You may be a friend, you may be a mom or dad you may be the police officer they don’t ever speak to and they see but they know he is there,” Byrd said.
He added, “They would undergo a minimum 40-hour training course toward how to deal with problems that arise. For example, identifying child abuse, problems at home, how to do an intervention, de-escalation is a lot different with juveniles.”
The governor’s proposal calls for $30 million to expand a Homeland Security Network to monitor school threats, $20 million for public school upgrades to secure school facilities, $7 million for private school upgrades, and $8 million for additional school-based behavioral health liaisons across the state.
But when all these things fail, Byrd said boots on the ground can neutralize the threat.
“He put $8 million into health care professionals, to be able to triage and identify problems before they come. But he also put $30 million into hiring 122 Homeland Security agents. Those agents can be invested in identifying problems before they happen and listening to intel, things of that nature, so a lot of this money is in the preventative side. The majority of it is in the preventative side,” Byrd said. “The last line of defense, when physical security measures fail, when prevention system fail, the only thing left standing between the loss of life is a good guy with a gun. It is an officer who is trained and ready to answer that call.”
Metro Nashville Police reported, Audrey Hale—the Covenant School shooter—had considered other targets but considered them too well fortified and opted not to go to them on Monday, March 27.
According to Byrd, if The Covenant School had an armed security officer the shooter might have chosen another location.
“We have no more precious resource in this world than our kids,” Byrd added.
Finding hard data on how many SROs there are in every school is not readily available. According to Metro police, there are presently 38 SROs who cover all of the public high schools and rotate among the middle schools in the area.