With a local principal calling for more School Resource Officers, the school board has scheduled a workshop for Monday, February 25 at 6:00 p.m. to discuss options for strengthening school security, including the possibility of asking the state legislature and county commission to help fund more SRO officers.
DeKalb County currently has one School Resource Officer at DCHS. The four other schools do not have an SRO.
During Thursday night's school board meeting held at DeKalb West School, Dr. Gayle Redmon, Principal at Northside Elementary School said its time for the school board to act. "While I am aware that the funding for School Resource Officers is not an item that comes out of the school budget, I would like to make an appeal to the School Board to request from our County Commissioners, a School Resource Officer in each of our schools in DeKalb County," she said.
(VIEW THE ENTIRE SCHOOL BOARD MEETING THURSDAY NIGHT BY PLAYING BOTH VIDEOS BELOW-PARTS 1 & 2)
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Referring to an incident in Warren County Thursday, Dr. Redmon said "today (Thursday), we had a report of a threat made by a student in another county (Warren County) and our school (NES) was fortunate enough to have an officer assigned to our school for most of the day as we maintained a high alert status. The presence of this officer made everyone at Northside feel safer and more secure," she said.
"While it saddens me that we must make this request, I believe it is imperative that we think in terms of being proactive rather than reactive," said Dr. Redmon.
"Research does indicate that a School Resource Officer would be instrumental in protecting students and staff in the event that we were to ever to have an intruder in our school who intended to do harm to students or an adult. I am aware of only one incident in which an SRO officer was killed in a school shooting. Most of the attacks in schools occur where there is not an SRO present. In instances where there has been an SRO present during a violent attack at school, the officer has been able to signficantly limit the harm to innocent people," she said
"In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, for example in 2011, a student entered a school with two pipe bombs in his backpack. He then shot and wounded the School Resource Officer. But the officer was able to stop that student before he could do any further harm," said Dr. Redmon.
"In our own state of Tennessee, in Sullivan County a 62 year old man came in and confronted a principal. He put a gun in the principal's face. The School Resource Officer intervened and was able to calm the man down at least until more officers could arrive, at which time that man did draw the gun on the SRO and he was shot by those officers," she said.
"Examples like that could go on and on."
"The one thing that really sticks out in my mind at all the school safety and security meetings I have attended in our own county or at Tennessee Tech and other places is that each of the schools reported having one thing in common and that was that they never thought that a shooting would occur at their school," she said.
"I believe an SRO is needed at every school. I believe they would be able to protect our schools. I think they could coordinate the response better for other police resources and maybe help us to address crime and disorder problems as they occur and further help prevent such crimes," according to Dr. Redmon.
"I believe an SRO would be able to take action immediately against unauthorized persons on our school property. In addition, I think they would be a deterrent to bullying in our schools," she said..
"I believe the presence of SRO's in our schools would be invaluable an immeasurable if they were able to save even one life," concluded Dr. Redmon.
"I concur with Mrs. Redmon," said Danny Parkerson, Principal at DeKalb West School. "Schools have changed. Our society has changed. An SRO Officer in the schools just has a calming affect if nothing else. I've been to ball games and had SRO Officers attend our ball games and it makes an unruly fan, ruly," said Parkerson.
First District member John David Foutch said the school board has been discussing ways to improve school security for several weeks. "The day after Sandy Hook, we started working on this," said Foutch. " We've talked to local law enforcement departments. In our own county, we've gone a long way. We've got people interested in taking those jobs (SROs). What we are lacking mainly is funding. If you will talk to your county commissioners, we'll talk to our legislators. To get this funded and off the ground, we need people at home standing behind us. This is something we're trying to make happen but we can't make it happen on our own. We need everybody's help," said Foutch.
"In the workshop prior to this meeting, we were already discussing some of these issues," said Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore. " I think Mr. (Mark) Willoughby is going to be checking into the costs and we will be making recommendations. Some of our board members will be attending the "Day on the Hill" (State Legislature) in just a few days and they will be talking to some of our legislators about such things as being able to help fund some of those (SROs) and a lot of other things we need to do to upgrade our security systems at the schools," said Lattimore.
Fourth District member Billy Miller proposed having a workshop on school security, but to open it up to the community so that more people, including local law enforcement officers and business persons could offer up ideas. "I do think it is a community responsibility for us to look at this," said Miller. " I would make a proposal that we have a workshop to come up with solutions. It needs to be an open workshop to include the Sheriff's Department, the Police Department, First Responders, local businessmen, and the community. If we come together as a community I think we can get way ahead on this problem. If we have the community involved in this, maybe we can come up with a solution and maybe be able to put more SRO's into the school system. It's not going to solve all our problems but it's a start in the right direction. I would like to see this board step up for the community and have the community involved," said Miller.
Chris Allen, a concerned parent and owner of two local businesses addressed the school board offering an idea on how to pay for more SRO's. " I've thought about the funding for the SRO's. If every working citizen in DeKalb County who works in the county would commit to having one penny an hour deducted off of their pay, that would fund an SRO Officer for each school in the county. I don't know how difficult that would be to do but it wouldn't have to come out of anybody's budget. I don't know how it could be implemented or even if it could be a private thing instead of through the state or the county," said Allen.
Board Chairman Lattimore said the school system could not implement such a plan and that Allen would have to contact the county commission or state legislature about his proposal. "That would be something that would have to be taken up by the county commission or the state legislature," said Lattimore. "How ever the SRO's are funded, the taxpayers will have to pay for that. Right now all of our county taxes are through property taxes so if the county commission pays for it (more SRO's) then that's probably how they would do it is add to the county property taxes. I recommend that you talk to your county commissioners and maybe you can send in an email to your state representatives too and let them know about your idea. They are the ones who actually tax us so that's where that would have to come from," said Lattimore.