NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — In a 23-12 vote with two members abstaining, Metro Council voted to accept $3.375 million in state money to partially fund the salaries of school resource officers (SROs) in Metro Nashville Public Schools.
However, considering Metro currently funds SROs in 46 Metro Nashville Public Schools (16 high schools and 30 middle schools), council members wanted details on how the police department would use these excess funds before taking a vote.
On Tuesday, Deputy Chief Chris Gilder told council members any excess money will go to covering officer overtime in situations like the Covenant shooting and the 2020 Christmas Day bombing.
Gilder also addressed questions regarding SRO protocols and told council members SROs are not involved in the discipline process. He specified fights are typically a disciplinary matter.
According to Gilder, there have been 12 arrests at MNPS so far this year. He explained most of the arrests are for school threats and weapons offenses.
Councilmember Jeff Preptit reviewed the memorandum of understanding between the Metro Nashville Police Department and Metro Nashville Public Schools regarding SROs ahead of Tuesday’s vote and called on his colleagues to consider making changes to it in the future.
“What I would implore us to do is to explore how we can further work with MNPS, MNPD to provide further policy guidance to make sure that apart from this [memorandum of understanding] that there is good standing policy in place actually focusing on what our kids need,” Preptit said. “Making sure that we are focusing on providing them with school nurses, school counselors, providing them with free and reduced lunch regardless of socioeconomic status.”
Other councilmembers echoed Preptit’s concerns.
“I want this to be a clear message from me that it’s time for us to look at other ways of helping our children in schools,” said Councilmember Sandra Sepulveda before casting a vote against accepting this state funding.
“We asked for gun reform, plain and simple. We asked for it. We demanded it. We marched. We processed it. We cried and we got money for police officers in schools,” said Councilmember Delishia Porterfield.
Yet, others emphasized this funding does not change the number of SROs in schools or how they operate.
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“The SROs that are in our high schools and middle schools are going to be in those schools, no matter how we vote today,” said Councilmember Courtney Johnston.
“I say, let’s take this big money to pay for this thing. It only makes sense and take it off our taxpayers,” said Councilmember Bob Nash.