Tennessee communities consider more safety at schools

Associated Press • Jan 12, 2013 at 5:56 AM

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- School districts and local governments in Tennessee are starting to take or recommend more safety measures in the wake of a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school last month.

In Unicoi County, Sheriff Mike Hensley said he has placed resource officers in all schools at least until the end of the spring semester. In a similar effort, Montgomery County, officials announced that they would place armed off-duty police officers at elementary schools beginning this month.

Meanwhile, officials in other communities are discussing options. Rutherford County officials are considering a proposal to add resource officers. Davidson County, officials are considering measures that would standardize main entryways, add an "intruder lock" for classroom doors and assure every school has a digital security system.

Unicoi County Sheriff Mike Hensley told the Johnson City Press that he and other county officials wanted to move quickly to implement safety measures.

"I'd rather be proactive than reactive," Hensley said. "It's my job as sheriff to do whatever it takes to make all citizens of this county safe. If I see there is a potential danger, I have to address it. In this situation, I felt it was needed to be done to protect not only our children, but our teachers."

He said officials will evaluate the program at the end of the school year, and he hopes that state or federal funding will be available to keep it going.

Clarksville-Montgomery County schools Director B.J. Worthington told The Leaf-Chronicle that the $140,000 safety measure there will also last through at least the end of the semester while officials wait to see if other funding becomes available.

"We are going to continue to implement our long and our short-term measures we've identified through our collaborative efforts while also paying attention to what is happening in the general assemblies," Worthington said. "We know this is a topic that is being debated."

The Daily News Journal reports Rutherford County Commissioner Robert Peay Jr. says he thinks a proposal to put resource officers in every school is important.

"We need to do it," Peay said during a meeting of the commission's budget committee. "I'm going to push for it. I think it's a good thing. Our teachers feel more secure about it."

Commissioners told Sheriff Robert Arnold to plan to add 13 resource officers next year. The total startup costs would be about $1.4 million, and annual costs afterward would run about $687,000, Arnold said.

Davidson County schools, meanwhile, are planning other safety measures with support from Metro Nashville officials.

The Tennessean reports Mayor Karl Dean has endorsed the school board's request for funding the measures and recommended immediately reallocating funds.

"Our schools have a very good safety history, but given recent national events, it is clear we need to take additional measures to assure the families of children in our public schools that Nashville is taking the necessary steps to ensure their safety when entrusted to our care," he wrote.

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