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FSSD board approves School Resource Officers in elementary schools

Minutes after the County Commission’s January meeting began in the Administrative Complex at 7 p.m. on Monday, County Mayor Rogers Anderson received a text message from FSSD Superintendent Dr. David Snowden. Members of the Franklin Special School District’s Board of Education voted unanimously during their meeting, which began a half hour earlier, to be included in the county’s School Resource Officer (SRO) program.

Within days of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. where 26 people were murdered, Williamson County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Looney, Anderson and Snowden met with commissioners to discuss expanding the current SRO program in middle and high schools to all county and city schools. Since FSSD’s school board meeting was not until the day the commission would be voting on the matter, Snowden determined the county could move forward with the paperwork to add all FSSD schools to the resolution to fund additional resource officers until the end of this fiscal year in June and he would notify Anderson whether the school board approved the agreement.

After a brief discussion that included questions about the role of an SRO and funding for the program, board members approved the request to be included in the county’s resolution.

The board also authorized the board’s executive committee – Snowden, and board chairwoman Sherry Badger to work with county government officials on a Memorandum of Agreement to finalize the partnership for the program, which it will officially ratify at the February meeting – on the same night as the County Commission’s meeting.

“One of the main reasons for SROs in middle and high schools is protection and building relationships with students, teachers and parents and run programs like DARE,” Snowden told board members when questioned by board member Robin Newman. “At the elementary level, I can’t tell you what the SRO job description is going to look like – it’s a work in progress. It’s another resource schools have available.”

FSSD has SROs at Freedom Middle and Poplar Grove Middle schools.

“Officer Cole is the primary SRO for FSSD,” Snowden said. “Kids see him as a friend. He does a lot of different things and middle school principals sing his praises all the time.”

Funding for the program will come out of the county’s General Purpose Fund – money Franklin residents pay into through property taxes, but Snowden and Anderson plan to pursue other sources of revenue including city and state grants, Snowden said.

“I never thought we would need SRO in elementary schools, but I think it would be wise to pursue this option and we need to definitely keep open and pursue other options – like are we going to arm teachers?” said Newman. “Parents think SROs are a better option.”

Williamson County and FSSD school boards also hired Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center to perform a risk management assessment of schools in the districts.

“A week after the Sandy Hook school shootings Dr. Looney contacted me about hiring a company with expertise in schools to do a risk management assessment in our schools,” Snowden said. “Local law enforcement does not have the expertise to do an assessment in schools.”

The assessment will provide a holistic approach to safety not solely relying on SROs. The cost of the assessment – $17,985 for FSSD’s schools will come primarily from a $15,000 state school safety grant.

“There may be some holes in our own school safety plan,” Snowden added. “This may provide areas of strength and a chance to fill holes.”

Following the assessment, Safe Haven will provide parent meetings in each of the schools to answer parents’ questions and address their concerns about school safety.

“This is an opportunity to improve safety, knowledge, planning and being prepared – which is just about the most important thing we can do.”

Posted on: 1/17/2013


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