Local educators voice safety concerns to Roe

Hank Hayes • Apr 5, 2018 at 7:00 PM

ROGERSVILLE — More school resource officers and mental health services are needed in schools to prevent mass shootings, educators told U.S. Rep. Phil Roe during a closed door roundtable school safety discussion on Thursday.

Reporters came into the Hawkins County Education Training Center at the end of the meeting, which was held to let educators air their concerns and share ideas in the aftermath of the mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.

“Number one, all the educators said that every school needed a school resource officer,” said Roe, R-Tenn. “Many schools don’t have that. I think we are going to have to provide that to our students for safety. Secondly, we need to make it more difficult for someone who doesn’t need to be there to get in. We need to find out what the best practices are to increase student safety without disrupting the classroom.”

Roe noted that in Johnson City, Woodridge Hospital only has 11 beds for teenage students with mental health issues.

“Nationally, we’ve gone from a half-million mental health beds down to about 47,000,” Roe disclosed. “We want to get together with the new Ballad Health and see what they can do.”

Would the federal government step up and pay for more school resource officers?

“No, they are not going to do that,” Roe responded. “We can do it with a combination of the local system and state system and find out what the best practices are, what we should be doing. We’ve got to figure out how to fund the resource officer in every school.”

Johnson City Superintendent of Schools Steve Barnett also didn’t think the federal government would pay for more school safety measures.

“There may be some grant money, but in the long run, there is no free money,” Barnett stressed.

Did anyone in the room say anything about arming teachers?

“We did bring that up,” Roe said. “Most of the feeling was like I had. … My first grade teacher … I can’t imagine her having a nine millimeter (pistol) on her hip. We talked about having a former police officer (in schools). That’s a different situation. The resource officer would absolutely have to know who (on the property) is armed.”

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