NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Gov. Bill Lee has approved $140 million to put an officer in every public school, but the officers are not mandatory.
After previously refusing to put school resource officers in elementary schools, Metro Nashville Public Schools did not say if they will change that stance when asked.
In a statement, a spokesperson for MNPS said they are working with Metro police to keep schools safe.
“MNPS and MNPD have a strong collaborative partnership and meet regularly to review and discuss security plans. We have, over the years, invested in security upgrades to follow best practices and continue to look at ways we can enhance that safety. We look forward to ongoing planning with the MNPD and will share changes or updates to our plans with stakeholders as they are identified.”
The spokesperson also mentioned they received funding approval for the “Safety Ambassador” program in January and have so far hired 12 people to work with schools on adhering to their safety plan and checking that the schools are secure throughout the day.
MNPS also has officers stationed outside elementary schools for part of the day.
However, second grade teacher Deirtra Bledsoe thinks all of this time and energy would be better spent focusing on more mental health resources for students.
“I have students who have trauma in their life,” Bledsoe said. “Counselors are busy doing administrative work, and we don’t have a social worker. So, therefore, my students who have trauma in their lives is up to me, their teacher, to try and find resources to help them to be the best that they can possibly be.”
A University of Albany and RAND study found SROs, “[d]o effectively reduce some forms of violence in schools, but do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents.”
However, Rodolfo Perez, President of the National Association of School Resource Officers, disagreed with the study and said SROs should work in tandem with mental health professionals.
“SROs have relationships on campus where students approach them and say, ‘Hey, this person has a gun.’ ‘Hey, this person put a post threat on social media.’ And we’ve averted so many violent crimes on campuses that there isn’t a metric to it,” Perez said.
Yet to Bledsoe, the SROs don’t get to the heart of the issue that has her coming up with a plan in her head in case of an active shooter on the playground.
“The problem is not the school. The problem is not children. The problem is continued access to high-powered rifles,” she said.
Bledsoe said she hopes lawmakers use the upcoming special session to concentrate on gun reform and listen to teachers.
“We’re not against them. We just want our students to be safe and for us to provide the best for them,” she said.