HAWKINS COUNTY, Tenn. - A little less than a month after the shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the Hawkins County School District is taking safety steps to make sure that tragedy doesn't happen here.
"The shooting devastated me because, not only am I a school board member, I'm a parent of five children," said Chris Christian. "Safety for our children is most important. I think everybody in the country right now is saying the same thing."
The Hawkins County Board of Education met on Thursday and approved $300,000 to be used to hire and train 15 new deputies as school resource officers. "It's our obligation to protect our students the best we possibly can," Christian said. The Hawkins County School District Currently has five school resource officers: three at the high schools and two officers that rotate between schools. The addition of these 15 officers would provide 20 officers to cover the 19 schools countywide. Currently, all eighteen schools and the Pathways Alternative School have cameras at the entrance with magnetic doors. The cameras and monitors allow school personnel to be aware and to video anyone who enters our buildings. Additionally, cameras are positioned at multiple entrances and throughout the building. Buildings can now be monitored from off site, as well.
While school officials want more security, they can't fund it alone. "We have to be concerned about the funding because this will be an annual expense," he said. Which is they are turning to the county commission to come up with more than $700,000 to fund the officers every year.
One of the proposed options at the meeting to raise the money was a 10-cent property tax increase. "Is a ten cent tax increase such a burden for the safety and security of our children?" Christian asked.
Sheriff Ronnie Lawson said the officers would be worth every penny. "It's more than just an armed guard in our school," Lawson said. "I think it's something we need. It's an asset to the school and citizens of Hawkins County."
Lawson said the officers would also direct traffic at the schools, implement safety and anti-drug programs and then work in the county when classes aren't in session. "The tax payers get their schools protected and it puts more officers on the road in the summer time."
The county commission is scheduled to discuss the issue at their January 28th meeting.
According to the Director of Schools, Charlotte Britton, the Hawkins County Schools have taken many pro-active steps for the safety and security of our students and staff. At the beginning of each school year, the safety committee at each school reviews and updates the Emergency Response Plan for their school. At our In-Service on January 2, 2013, the principals and staff of each school reviewed and revised, if necessary, the Emergency Response Plan.