Haslam, state officials discuss school safety at summit

Haslam, state officials discuss school safety at summit (Image 1)

The question about how to keep students safe is being asked by top educators and law enforcement officials from around the state Tuesday.

“We have heard from all but eleven of the state's 136 districts,” said Williamson County Schools Director Mike Looney who organized the first of its kind School Safety Summit for Tennessee in the wake of last month's shootings in Newtown, Connecticut.

Along with opening comments from Governor Bill Haslam and Tennessee Education Department Commissioner Kevin Huffman, the educators and law enforcement are hearing from school safety experts from across the country in the day-long session at The Factory gathering hall in Franklin.

After the two hours of opening remarks, the session was closed to media so that potentially sensitive security measures could be discussed.

Much of the initial discussion centered on the extra funds need to upgrade school security.

Many districts around Middle Tennessee are already taking steps by hiring more armed officers in schools.

Williamson County was among the first when earlier this month with $2.5 million to hire 32 more armed school resource officers so that one could be in every elementary school.

On Monday night, Wilson County schools combined with Lebanon Public Schools approved funds to put sheriff deputies in each school, including elementary schools.

“It's for one year,” Wilson County Schools Director Mike Davis told Nashville's News 2 Monday morning. “We'll be looking at other streams of revenues if we decide to keep the officers.”

One potential source of funding that could be divided up by state's 136 school districts is $34 million in K-12 capital outlay funds proposed by Governor Bill Haslam in Monday night's State of the State speech.

“Some of which can be used for security, but we want that to be your call not ours,” Haslam said during his remarks to the educations and law enforcement officers.

While large counties around Nashville, such as Williamson, Sumner and now Wilson counties are approving money for the SROs, many smaller counties have more limited funds.

Putnam County Schools director Jerry Boyd told Nashville's News 2 that “our funding sources currently would not support” putting SROs in all of the county's elementary schools.

He said that his county's share of the $34 million in state funds for potential security uses would be “evaluated” against all the other potential needs of Putnam County schools.

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