Greene County

Greeneville classes resume with armed officer at each school

Greeneville police in schools

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. - Monday marked 'day one' in a new safety initiative for Greeneville City Schools.

The town is funding one armed police officer to be stationed at every Greeneville school for the time-being.    

News 5 was at Hal Henard Elementary as school started this morning to see what this program means to parents and teachers and just how long it could last.

It's back-to-class at Greeneville City Schools, and for many of them, there's a new man on campus; an armed police officer.

"The Greeneville Police Department is adding four officers through overtime right now. One full time for each of the four [elementary schools]," said Linda Stroud, Director of Schools for Greeneville City Schools.

With Greeneville's two existing school resource officers now staying at Greeneville Middle and Greeneville High School, this initiative gives one armed officer for each school.

We learned it comes as a joint effort by town leaders, and it is a direct response to last month's tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut and other recent mass shootings.

"This is reasonable, and it's prudent, and you know I am not in favor of arming our teachers. They are trained professionals as teachers, and police officers are trained professionals as police officers," Stroud added.

For parents leaving their kids under someone else's care, it's peace-of-mind.

"Some people just aren't capable of living in society the way our normal folks do, and we need that extra support," said Ted Freeman, a parent of students in Greeneville City Schools.

Greeneville Police Chief Terry Cannon told us these officers can make a big difference in an emergency.

"If something happens and the school has to call, it's going to take us four minutes to get there, and so there's a lot that can happen in four minutes we found out," said Chief Cannon.

At Hal Henard Elementary School, the classrooms are open, so there's not a door to lock in case of an emergency. It's a reason teachers tell me, they're glad to have this extra measure of protection.

"Having that officer in the building does give me that extra sense of security that they are looking at it differently and taking that proactive step," said Kim Graham, a 5th grade teacher at Hal Henard Elementary.

It's a proactive step, but not a permanent one for now.   

We learned it will be up to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen to decide if these officers stay, because finishing out the rest of the year could cost big bucks.

"In the neighborhood of $80,000 in overtime," said Chief Cannon.

When it comes to kids, many feel it could be money well spent.

"I'm proud of us all to be looking out for the kids. You know, they're our main concerns," Anthony Gudger, a parent of a Hal Henard Elementary student, said.

We're told these officers will be around for the next few weeks while the police department's overtime budget lasts.    

The town's Board of Mayor and Aldermen is expected to discuss what will happen once that money dries up at its meeting next Tuesday.

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