Local schools have upped school security in year since Sandy Hook
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - As we approach the one year anniversary of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, we're taking a look at how the national tragedy has impacted security at our local schools.
From practice drills, to new policies and high-tech equipment, schools throughout our area have invested in better protection for our children following the Sandy Hook tragedy. There's also been a big push for more school resource officers, or SRO's. The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office recently learned it will get a $1 million federal grant to pay for eight additional officers.
"When you combine all of that knowing what can happen in some of the schools, and that have happened in schools across the nation, I certainly feel better," Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond said.
The recently awarded grant will put the total number of SRO's in Hamilton County Schools at 28. Sheriff Jim Hammond says that's better, but still leaves around 50 district schools without one.
"By just having 28 we're not able to even cover half of what we really need," Sheriff Hammond said.
Some smaller school districts in our area, like Murray County, Georgia, do have an officer on every campus.
In Grundy County, they moved existing officers off the streets and into the hallways of all seven schools this year.
"We picked and pulled from different areas within corrections and put those people out here in the schools," Grundy County Sheriff's Office Lt. Rusty Parker said.
That move was free to tax payers, but they did spend around $100,000 in more secure doors, cameras and buzzer systems.
"I'm tickled to death to know that there's extra security being done," teacher and parent John Hargis said.
In McMinn County they did in-depth safety assessments of all the entry points and hiding places in the schools. They then held practice emergency response drills over the summer, playing out how they would handle a shooter situation. Volunteers acted as victims.
"Sort of role play and review, so it's a good planning situation," McMinn County Schools Safety Supervisor Vant Hardaway said.
All seem to agree that beefing up school security is worth every minute of training and every dollar they're able to use for it.
"Wouldn't have thought about it 20 years ago it would take this, but now that we live in the day we do, and some of the issues we do, I think that's one of the best return for the tax payer dollar is seeing that we keep our kids safe," Sheriff Hammond said.
Sheriff Hammond says Hamilton County's eight new school resource officers have to undergo training, so they likely won't be placed in the schools until the next academic year. Where they'll be distributed is based on where they see the most need. Brainerd High School and The Howard School will both have two officers each, one from the county and one from the city.