NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Armed uniformed Metro Nashville Police officers will patrol the grounds of elementary schools starting August 8th.
It’s a shift from what the Director of Metro Nashville Public Schools, Dr. Adrienne Battle, told News 2 last week when she shared school resource officers would not be assigned to elementary schools. At that time, she expressed her concern regarding over poling of minority students but acknowledged safety conversations with MNPD Chief John Drake were ongoing.
“I think this is an appropriate balance between the desire in added security and collaboration with the police department while not risking the criminalization of childhood behavior,” Battle told News 2’s Alex Denis when asked what was the change.
“Our uniformed armed officers will work the exterior of our buildings. Having an active duty police officer on campus keeping an eye out for our schools and providing a valuable point of contact for principals and administrators is going a long way to giving parents, staff, and students a greater level of confidence in their safety. Inside our school buildings, we’re talking about unarmed, not in uniform, leaders, trained leaders who will be pressure testing our systems,” Dr. Battle explained.
Battle referred to the newly created School Safety Ambassador position that will be trained as an SRO armed not with a gun but with a police frequency radio.
“They would know how to secure doors, know which ones to open, which one we’re going through, what students should do, what teachers should do, in the event that we have an active shooter,” explained Chief Drake.
Officers will patrol the perimeter of elementary schools on weekdays from 7:30 in the morning until 11:30.
Active duty officers will make visits throughout the afternoon to ensure coverage.
“All of the officers will have card key access to all school buildings,” Drake said.
Middle schools will receive daily SRO coverage for several hours on a rotating basis.
“Additionally, SROs will teach drug abuse resistance education or D.A.R.E. as well as conflict resolution for all grades 6-8th,” Drake continued.
All 13 comprehensive high schools will have at least two school resource officers assigned on a permanent basis. Magnet schools will have a coordinated presence as well. The problem is staffing.
“Our police department is short-staffed by 200 police officers,” said Drake.
The updated safety plan calls for 70 School Safety Ambassadors, which are currently unfilled. And, there are 22 open SRO positions at the start of the school year.
MNPD will be graduating a class of 61 on Thursday. “We have two more classes this year [and] 8 next year,” Drake said. “We’re anticipating getting the full staff hopefully by fall of next year, and we’ll keep increasing our commitment to schools.”
The cost of this safety initiative is anticipated to be between $5-6 million. But, the two feel this approach, along with added security measures taken this summer, will go a long way in keeping the school year safe for all.
“We have made investments throughout our schools to enhance security and security vestibules to slow or prevent an intruder from getting into the schools.” Battle continued, “A network security camera system, classroom doors that swing out and lock from inside, in alignment with best practices, and fire and safety code. If we determine there are changes that need to be made or adjustments that need to be made, we’ll make those.”