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Knox school board member proposes task force to study, reevaluate school security protocols

Right now, KPD and KCSO provide SROs while the school system employs its own school security officers.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — A member of the Knox County Board of Education is proposing an in-depth look at how security is handled across the district.

Daniel Watson, who represents District 3 in West Knoxville, has proposed a resolution to review and revise the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) that KCS has with local law enforcement agencies, city and county government, and the Knox County District Attorney General's Office. 

The resolution is being co-sponsored by Evetty Satterfield, who represents District 1, which includes Austin-East Magnet High School. That's where student Anthony Thompson Jr., 17, was shot and killed during a struggle with KPD officers last month.

Right now, according to the resolution, KCS employs 105 armed security officers. The Knox County Sheriff's Office provides 26 School Resource Officers (SRO) and the Knoxville Police Department has 14 SROs.

Watson said he began working on this proposal in October. In light of the A-E shooting on April 12 and repeated concerns over racial injustice, it has taken on fresh importance.

Spanish Version: Miembro del consejo escolar de Knox propone un grupo de trabajo para estudiar y evaluar los protocolos de seguridad escolar

The resolution reads: "The Board of Education recognizes historical compounded trauma that students of color have experienced in the United States and the trauma which can be experienced by special education students, immigrant students and students with disabilities when engaging with law enforcement."

It requests that KPD and KCSO take part in a "transparent community-engaged process" that will include the formation of an ad hoc School Safety and Security Subcommittee made up of three board members and the superintendent.

In turn, that subcommittee will form a task force that will include representatives from the law enforcement agencies, local government, students, parents, teachers, and civil rights and community stakeholder groups.

Watson proposes that the task force look at local data and engage subject matter experts to learn best practices for handling school security. The group should also hold at least three public meetings to learn the community's priorities and perspectives. 

“I believe that the community plays a critical role in helping advise Knox County Schools on how safety and security are provided for within the district, and the agreements KCS has with local law enforcement agencies,” Watson said in a statement Monday.

“Should this resolution pass, I look forward to many productive gatherings with the community to elevate their desires, concerns, and ideas regarding school safety and the MOA that exists with local law enforcement agencies.”

If approved, Watson would expect recommendations from the task force by September 1.

The Board of Education will discuss the proposed resolution at its work session on Wednesday, May 5, at the City County Building and it could come up for a vote at the next regular meeting on Wednesday, May 12, at the Andrew Johnson Building.