Chattanooga TN Jan 18 2020
Hamilton County Schools has voted to approve hiring ten new security officers to be staffed at schools. The district had struggled to recruit school resource officers (SROs) recently.
All the board members were conflicted over which direction to go, but eventually concluded it was better to at least have some form of security than nothing at all.
“Sheriff Hammond has worked hard to find SROs and he hasn’t been able to find them, so my goodness we got to do something,” said Joe Smith, school board member representing District 3.
Right now, SRO’s patrol schools and are able to discipline and counsel students. The new officers called school security officers or SSO’s won’t be allowed to discipline or counsel.
Joe Smith says this isn’t ideal, but right now it’s their only option.
Plus, they need to use the half a million dollars set aside for this.
“We’ve had money budgeted ever since our budget year began, back in the spring,” Smith said.
Smith believes the public will appreciate this step to protect the students.
“I’m a grandaddy too, and I’ve got children in the public schools so I think that anything that we can do to protect our children has got to be positive.”
Beyond an armed official, Hamilton County has taken other measures to ensure security.
“I think the important thing for the community to understand is that the school system has done a lot of things over the last year and a half to secure our buildings. Cameras, hard entries, so you know safety is just multi-tiered,” Smith told Channel 3.
SRO’s are the gold standard and students would love to have that in their schools. With the situation at hand, they just want someone they can trust if an emergency were to happen.
Jeremiah Taylor, a student board member, told Channel 3, “If we have to get an SSO that’s just how it is. So I definitely agree with having somebody in place, whether it be an SSO or anybody, but definitely.”
Sheriff Hammond said he supports whatever the board decides. District 5 representative, Karitsa Jones, was the only board member to vote against the program.