Tuesday night parents and community members got their chance to weigh in on school security
After several weeks of discussion, discovery and debate, Tuesday night parents and community members got their chance to weigh in on the topic of security in Knox County Schools.
Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre outlined his plan to improve security in schools. That includes current generation video cameras at each school, plus a new school access control strategy with camera-buzzer systems, key-less entry or security entrance vestibules.
McIntyre would also like to place an armed, uniformed school resource officer or security officer at each of the district's 88 schools.
Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch and Knox County Sheriff J.J. Jones were also part of the discussion.
Most of the questions from parents were in response to the armed officers, including how many officers would be made available, how soon they would be placed in schools, and how much it would cost the district.
Cory King has a 6-year-old daughter in the Knox County school district, and fully supports placing an officer in her elementary school.
"I think there has to be an armed officer there," he said. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with gun, is good guy with gun."
The current proposal would have the officers in place by next school year, but King challenged school officials to make it happen sooner.
"Everything they're talking about, they want to do it next year. That's fine but I'm concerned about tomorrow morning," he said, pushing urgency. "I just feel like there's a big gap that needs to be filled."
Community members had more questions about new security cameras, communication between SRO and local law enforcement in a crisis situation, and what security measures will be in place after school hours, on school buses or in after-school programs, for example.
"I think there are a lot of people who have different ideas on what we should be doing," said Knox County Board of Education Chair Karen Carson. "They are also just trying to reach for anything that would help everybody feel more secure. So I think it's just a good dialogue."
Several community members asked what more they could do to help, some even offering to patrol the schools as volunteers. McIntyre was quick to explain the role he wanted law enforcement to have.
"We don't want folks on armed patrol, or anything like that, around schools. We want that task, obviously, left to our school security officers and our school resource officers,"
However, he encouraged involvement and offered an alternative.
"If there are parents or grandparents that are interested in playing a role in being an extra pair of eyes in the school, or helping with traffic in the morning so they get to know who's meant to be in the school and who isn't, and what's routine and what's out of place, maybe that's a viable conversation for us to be having," he said.
"What I heard was support for what we have in place, support for what we want to put in place in the future, and a sense of urgency about doing it as soon as we possibly can," McIntyre said after the meeting.