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Mayor Jacobs criticizes using third party to collect community input on Knox Co. school security

Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs sent a letter to the Board of Education on Thursday saying that armed law enforcement officers are necessary in schools.

KNOX COUNTY, Tenn. — Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs condemned using a third party to collect community input on whether schools should have armed police officers, as the board of education continues to develop a new security policy with local law enforcement.

He sent a letter to education leaders on Thursday saying that he opposed using taxpayer money to hire a consulting firm to handle conversations about campus-specific security arrangements, which are expected to include public input.

The Board of Education met on May 19 to discuss creating a new school security agreement. During that meeting, they agreed to hire an outside facilitator to help design the agreement and collect public input, according to Daniel Watson, who represents District 3. 

Other strategies for collecting the community's opinion included focus groups and distributing a Google form.

Jacobs said instead of the board collecting public opinions, voters should go to the board to share their opinions. He said community members should reach out to their representatives with their opinions, and then the board should discuss what the new security agreement may look like.

"I agree that conversations about these campus-specific school arrangements should include public participation, but paying an outside consulting firm to do this work is a waste of taxpayer dollars," he said in the letter.

He also mentioned a $3.1 million commitment to fund additional positions in schools focused on students' social and emotional needs. Jacobs also agreed that school-based interventions, threat assessment programs, comprehensive counseling and student support programs could help address violence.

"Nevertheless, I simply cannot ignore that physical security is absolutely critical in keeping our students safe at school," he said. "I am deeply disturbed that any governmental body would even consider removing law enforcement from any of our schools."

In the letter, he also mentioned that he supported making different arrangements for specific schools, instead of a district-wide security agreement.

"Knox County is a large, diverse community that may very well need individualized school security programs across the District," he said.