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Law prevents release of school safety report

Citing Tennessee law, the Williamson County Schools does not plan to release a report recently provided by Safe Havens International, a campus-safety consultant.

The document is one of two commissioned by WCS and Franklin Special School District in the aftermath of a school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults. WCS, its school board and FSSD worked closely – and quickly – with the Williamson County Commission and Williamson County Sheriff’s Office to commit $30,000 to hire Safe Havens International, a Georgia-based non-profit organization, to conduct a safety and security analysis and provide recommendations to enhance security at all of the public schools in the county. It’s not yet known what the assessment and analysis for each system will cost.

“The Safe Havens report will be a protected document since it contains safety information,” said Carol Birdsong, WCS communications director. “So it won’t be made public.”

Generally, government-controlled documents are available for public inspection unless there’s a compelling reason, such as public safety, not to do so.

“The following records shall be treated as confidential and shall not be open for public inspection,” reads Tennessee code §10-7-504. “All contingency plans of a governmental entity prepared to respond to or prevent any violent incident, bomb threat, ongoing act of violence at a school or business, ongoing act of violence at a place of public gathering, threat involving a weapon of mass destruction, or terrorist incident.”

Jason Golden, WCS general counsel and assistant superintendent, said even so, the document still might not be accessible by the public because the “information contained in it is proprietary and that even a portion of it can’t be released without their permission.”

A team from Safe Havens, led by executive director Michael Dorn, conducted individual assessments of the 42 schools that comprise WCS and the eight of the FSSD in February.

“There are some very real dangers and concerns,” Dorn said to a gathering of parents at Poplar Grove Elementary School Feb. 7. “But they are not the things most people are concerned about.”

The former anti-terrorism planner for the state of Georgia said a madman-with-a-gun scenario is relatively low on the list of threats facing U.S. school children, despite high-profile school shootings such as those in Columbine, Colo., and Newtown.

“This is not a new phenomenon,” Dorn said. “Bumble bees kill more people in this country than all other animals combined.”

The school systems also entered into an inter-local agreement to install 32 armed school resource officers in their respective elementary schools at an initial cost of $2.6 million.

Posted on: 4/15/2013


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