To the school board, cost of student security is priceless

KNOXVILLE (WVLT) – Nearly three weeks after a teenager was gunned down in the cafeteria of Central High School, parents and students were still concerned about school safety in Knox County.

On Wednesday night, Superintendent Jim McIntyre went before the Knox County School Board to explain his new proposal for boosting school security. His plan is made up of eight individual requests that will cost about $195,000 to implement.

“Our intent is to send a very strong message that it's not acceptable to bring a weapon to school and it will not be tolerated," said McIntyre.

The school board listened to the proposal and ended up approving it in spite of the high price tag.

”I'm pleased that he's responding and that the school system is taking immediate action," said Indya Kincannon, chair of the school board.

One of the superintendent’s proposed items is to create an incentive program that would give money to students who provide tips leading to the arrest and recovery of weapons in school. The school board also suggested setting up an anonymous tip line so students could feel more comfortable about reporting their suspicions.

"Our best prevention is good intelligence, and our students are the ones interacting with their peers everyday,” said Kincannon. “They need to have a way to report things if they're worried."

The plan also includes physical security upgrades in all the county schools including the addition of security officers, video monitoring cameras, hand-held metal detectors and a pair of walk-through metal detectors.

“We could use them at some athletic events and that maybe at some other special events,” said McIntyre. “It may be that we use them in random searches."

They also hope that by using increasing the amount of random bag searches, they can further deter students from bring weapons on school grounds.

Even though the budget for the 2008-2009 school year is smaller than the board had originally requested, members believe the cost of safety is priceless.

“We are going to ask for an additional appropriation rather than trying to do it out of our existing budget,” said Kincannon. “Our existing budget is already pretty tight."

The board’s next step is to send the superintendent’s security enhancement resolution to the county commission with the specific request of around $195,000 dollars. They are hopeful that it will be discussed at the next county commission meeting on September 22nd. Superintendent McIntyre told the board that he would be in attendance to answer any questioned asked by commissioners.

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