KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The head of Knox County Schools' security said he worked to add security intelligence capabilities to get ahead of potential threats during his first school year in the role.
Jason Periard said he was impressed with the district's "physical security" measures when he took office in August but was "nowhere near satisfied with the level or proactive intelligence-led security that we could be doing as an organization."
"As the threat levels change and the threat vectors change, we have to be in front of the threat instead of behind it," Periard said.
In the aftermath of the Uvalde, Texas shooting, Periard reassured parents the district's school security officers are "up to the task" of defending schools — and constantly re-evaluating safety measures to make campuses difficult for potential threats.
"I can tell you that our schools are not going to be easy. We are going to do everything we can to be strong vigilant and use our security procedures to detect any kind of suspicious activity well ahead of any attack," he said.
But he said for all the money spent on procedures and equipment, security measures can be ruined when people don't follow them.
"If people don’t maintain the system that we put into place, or they try to defeat it out of convivence, then the system fails," he said.
Periard also appealed to parents and community members to say something if they see something suspicious.
"Our officers can’t see anything.," he said. "We’re really at the very last stage of that pathway to violence."
He encouraged parents to reach out for help if they are worried a student is suicidal or becoming isolated.
Periard said he has spent a third of his time this past year working with community stakeholders to develop a plan to address the Knoxville Police Department's involvement in the school district. He expects the research and proposal to be available to the school board and the public this summer.
He also said he will make good on a promise from his first week on the job and add cultural competency training for all security officers this summer. In addition, he said he's developed his own diversity council in coordination with the Beck Cultural Exchange Center.
"As a servant leader, I really want to make sure that everyone who comes to work for me or wants to work for us feels like they’ll have opportunities to excel, to grow where they’re planted and they feel like family," he said. "And those students from minority communities feel like they can really count on our officers to be their mentors, friends and confidants when they need them."