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10News Investigates: Some Knox County schools raise money for improved security

7:08 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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School security has been top of mind, both nationally and in Knox County, over the past few weeks. 10News has learned some parents have actually been footing the bill to make sure their kids are safe at school by raising their own money to beef up security. To protect students and teachers, 10News has decided not to specifically identify those schools, or other schools where security could be better, in this story.

Some Knox County Schools do not have video cameras installed, and doors at many schools remain unlocked during the day. 10News previously reported that armed officers are on duty at many of the schools. The school district has denied past attempts for some schools to get funding for additional security.

10News discovered efforts by some schools to fund-raise for security through an on-line blog written by Knox County parent Victor Agreda, Jr. He's frustrated about his children's safety at school because it has what he calls minimal security.

"There's not a great alert mechanism in place; it does concern me a little bit," Agreda, Jr. said.

Signs on the front door of the school Agreda's children attend indicate it is guarded by an alarm system and no weapons allowed on campus. But, there's no video surveillance system, and doors aren't secure.

"They need certain door locks, just the basic locking mechanisms and whatnot, that is a huge red flag to me, but that's the sort of thing they're trying to raise on their own," Agreda, Jr. said.

Other concerned parents, and teachers, at the school decided to raise funds to improve security. The school has previously made requests for funds from the school district, which Agreda said have been denied. The recent shooting in Newtown, Connecticut now makes it a top priority.

The school's principal recently sent a letter home to parents outlining $6,000 worth of basic security needs that would satisfy the school's improvements needs.  That letter also mentions that nearly 30 other Knox County schools have raised money for the same thing in recent years.

Knox County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre would not confirm that number though he acknowledges the efforts, "There have been schools in the past that have raised money for video monitoring systems and equipment like that, and I think that's not a model of where we want to be."

Earlier this month, in Dr. McIntyre's State of the Schools address, he addressed the standard level of security he wants to see across all 88 of the district's schools by fall of 2013. Thursday he emphasized again that his goal is to put an armed officer, and install up-to-date video monitoring systems and secure doors in every school.

"We have some schools that don't have any one of those three in place, and we have some that have all three," McIntyre explained.

While the superintendent won't announce the details of the standard security plan for a few weeks, there's no doubt it means asking Knox County for thousands of extra dollars later this year.

"Those are basic fundamental obligations of the school systems," McIntyre said.

Agreda hopes county leaders can set politics aside and do that's best for children, "There's a little bit of political, and there's a little bit of administrative red tape that has to be taken care of."

Dr. McIntyre told 10News Thursday afternoon that the school district will pay for better security at the school that's raising money, this school year. Now, the school can use money they were raising for that purpose to make other purchases for students, such as new technology or field trips.

Knox County Schools has set a community meeting for Tuesday, March 5 to discuss the district's future plans for security. That will take place at Amherst Elementary and begins at 6pm.

The Board of Education will further take up school security during its next worksession on Monday, February 18 at the district office in the Andrew Johnson Building in Downtown Knoxville.

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