Parents ask about safety in schools

By: Conroy Delouche Email
By: Conroy Delouche Email

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - At every meeting, Superintendent Jim McIntyre says student safety is the top priority in Knox County Schools.

Tonight, he, the sheriff, and police chief listened to parents answering questions and concerns.

It was a larger crowd of parents for the community forum at Amherst Elementary than past meetings.

Many wanted to share their opinions about safety, especially those with a heightened awareness since the Sandy Hook shootings.

"I think there needs to be more training with the teachers and the staff, as how to handle the situation if it does happens," said Charlotte Jeffries, who is raising two grandchildren.

The Knoxville Police Chief says in December, officers checked security protocols at every city school.

"I can tell you from that assessment, when it came back, that I feel comfortable that our students are safe. Now the question always is, are they safe enough?" asked Chief David Rausch.

That's why Superintendent McIntyre is proposing three areas of improvement: updated video cameras, school access control strategies, and armed, uniformed school resource officers.

"That person with specialized training in place is something that's going to be a very visible deterrent to those who seek to do harm," said Dr. McIntyre.

But many parents don't want to wait until August to see SRO's everywhere; they want their children protected now.

The superintendent understands the urgency, but says making changes is a process.

"That doesn't mean we'll have additional officers in place in this school year. But what it does mean, is that we'll be able to begin the process of posting those positions for hire, hiring officers, equipping them, training them so that we're ready to go on the first day of school," said Dr. McIntyre.

There are still decisions to be made, but the sheriff, police chief and superintendent say they are on the same page: protect the kids.

Dr. McIntyre says the additional 58 school resource officers would cost the county $1.9 million. He will present his budget plan for the next fiscal year in two weeks.

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