It's been just over a month since a lone gunman killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown Connecticut. That mass shooting started a nation-wide conversation about school safety, including right here in Tennessee.
On Monday the topic took center stage at a state-wide meeting near Nashville as around 400 educators, together with law enforcement and lawmakers from across the state, joined in that discussion.
The School Safety Summit was held at The Factory in Franklin in Williamson County. Experts and state officials made presentations about mental health, emergency response, and homeland security in regards to school safety. The summit was co-sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Education, Williamson County Schools, and the Franklin School District.
The meeting also comes on the heels of Governor Bill Haslam (R) announcing Monday night that he has proposed $34 million in his 2013 budget for capital needs, and $51 million for technology upgrades in schools. School safety could be increased in using those funds.
Gov. Haslam kicked off the day by re-stating his commitment to school safety, "The threat can come from anywhere, from outside, like it did in connecticut, from a teacher as happened who shot two principals in knoxville when i was mayor. So our job is to listen and come up with a strategic plan."
Knox county Sheriff J.J. Jones, Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, and Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre made the trip to Middle Tennessee. All three men say the conference confirmed to them that Knox County Schools have already taken many of the steps speakers recommended.
Those include establishing an understanding between schools and law enforcement; training teachers, staff, students, and parents on violence prevention; preparing for emergencies; and practicing emergency plans at schools.
Experts told the crowd that ensuring school safety does not necessarily mean putting more guns in schools, something Gov. Haslam also said he agreed with again as he addressed reporters. Experts said school safety starts with the community, and working together. Dr. McIntyre said that's something the schools and law enforcement plan to continue to address in Knox County.
"We are very fortunate to have that type of positive relationship in Knox County that puts us in a strong position to be able to do everything we possibly can to keep kids safe in Knox County schools," said Dr. McIntyre.
Chief Rausch said, "We're not talking about specific types of incidents. We're not talking about the sandy hooks. We're talking about everything that comes in to play for our children."
For more information about safety in Knox County Schools, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Knox County Sheriff's Office and the Knoxville Police Department click here.