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School district opts not to implement new gun law

11:26 PM, May 16, 2013   |    comments
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At Campbell County High School, school resource officers keep the campus under close watch even after hours.

They know all too well how a shooting can devastate your school. In 2005, they lost their vice principal and two other administrators still live with the consequences.

Late last year, they got another reminder in the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre.

"When I dropped Landon off at school, I didn't want to take him to school that day. But when we got there, there was a cop outside, and it made me feel safe leaving him there," said Tiffany York, a parent of a Jacksboro Elementary student.

But York says the officers didn't stay long after the initial shock at her son's school. It's something that still makes her uneasy.

"It's very scary to leave him at school," said York.

The high schools and middle schools each have an SRO, in some cases more than one, in Campbell County. But the elementary schools have no police protection.

School Board Member Rector Miller said he's tried for months to change that.

"After the Newtown shooting, I became very concerned, being a county that's experienced a shooting, that we should be out in the forefront of setting an example of security in our schools," said Miller.

Miller proposed using a new law that would allow retired law enforcement officers as security for each elementary school.

Governor Bill Haslam signed the bill into law Thursday. It also says schools districts can allow employees with police training and the proper certification to have guns in schools.

Miller said it's a much cheaper option, but would still cost the district their athletic director position. At Tuesday night's board meeting, Miller said his plan was scrapped.

"A lot of people have a lot of concerns about that bill, which I don't know if it will be beneficial to implement or not," said Miller.

He said the sheriff of Campbell County and the director of schools voiced concerns about the bill, including not having a large enough pool of retired law enforcement.

Instead, the school board voted to ask the County Commission to fund eight additional SROs at $340,000.

Miller said he's not disappointed that his plan didn't pass this time, and he agrees the full blown SROs are better.

"The safety resource officer program is, for lack of a better term, the Cadillac of school safety. We would love to have eight. One in every school interacting with kids. If the county commission is willing to fund that, that's great," said Miller.

Whatever option they choose, York is just happy to know that the plan is moving forward.

"It makes me feel much safer," York said.

Miller said if the county commission doesn't approve the $340,000 to fund the SROs, he plans on bringing back his plan to hire retired law enforcement.

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