Students across the state are heading back to class, and so are the resource officers who protect them. In the months since the Sandy Hook massacre, many schools have increased patrols, and lots of other ideas are still being considered.
After the horror of the Sandy Hook shooting, many Tennesseans said schools must be safer, and Terry Ashe, the executive director of the Tennessee Sheriff's Association, took the lead.
Ashe called for a school resource officer in every school in Tennessee and supported federal, state and local funding for SROs.
"The positive thing that happened out of that is that the real political will has taken place at the local level," Ashe said. "They stepped up, they found some funding, some at the school board level, some at the county commission level. Some are still struggling to find the funding to better protect our children."
Ashe says there are more than 200 new SROs in Tennessee schools this year and that their value cannot be quantified.
"We just don't have the statistics today about how many crimes were prevented because there was a school resource officer," Ashe said.
Ashe said in the 31 school shootings since Columbine in 1999, none of those shootings happened at a school with an SRO on duty.
And the one time a gunman did show up at an SRO-staffed school, Sullivan Central High School in Blountville, TN, school resource officer Carolyn Gudger held him at bay and prevented a potential tragedy.
There has been talk of allowing teachers to carry guns at school, and the Professional Educators of Tennessee has been following that proposal.
"We know of no district that has approved it. We know that in Bradley County, they said teachers could consider that, but they would have to go through the process. There are a couple of counties in upper east Tennessee that have looked at it, but I know of no teacher that will be armed this year in the classroom," said J.C. Bowman, with the Professional Educators of Tennessee.
The Professional Educators of Tennessee adds that one of its biggest requests for school security has not been granted. What PET really wants to see is more guidance counselors in schools, and that has not yet happened.
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