Cheatham County Sheriff Mike Breedlove and Cheatham County School Resource Officer Chris Gilmore addressed county commissioners to address and provide improvements with the School Resource Officer Program in the 2016-2017 budget.
Cheatham County has been placed on the national and international stage. School administrators from all over the world, including Russia, have reached out to Cheatham County officials. Administrators want to know how Sycamore Middle School Counselor Molly Hudgens diffused a recent incident when a 14-year old student brought a loaded gun to school with the intent of killing numerous teachers.
Breedlove stated the mind-set of the community had always been, ‘it won’t happen here’ and then it happened. He and SRO Gilmore viewed this as a wake-up call and the need to prepare for the next event.
“It’s not ‘if ‘ anymore,” stated Breedlove, “ now it’s ‘when’ it happens again and we need to be ready.”
During the commission meeting Sherriff Breedlove and Officer Gilmore submitted commissioners a report reflecting the increased number of reported cases needing assisantance of an SRO since the implementation of the program in 2011.
In 2011-2012 the district reported 151 calls and in the 2015-2016 school year the district reported 261 calls. Since the beginning of the current school year, approximately nine weeks of school, the district has already had 91 calls needing a School Resource Officer’s assistance.
The need for assistance, as reported by Gilmore, increased with the number of cyber crimes, bullying, sexting, drugs, safety violations and the overall growing need of security in district schools has consistently increased each year.
Gilmore stressed officers deal with 8 to 12 additional issues per day not accounted for in reported calls because they don’t fall into the criteria to have to submit a report.
three deputies responsible for 11 schools.
Two, of the of the three SRO Deputies, are in charge of (4) schools while one deputy is in charge of (5) schools within the district.
Cyber Crimes, Sexting and school bullying in all three Cheatham County High Schools had significantly increased to the point one full-time investigator could be hired to deal specifically with these direct issues. Currently many cyber crime investigations go unaddressed because Cheatham County doesn’t have a sufficient number of SROs.
SROs prioritize problems depending on the criticalness of the issue, limiting the number of issues dealt with each day. Gilmore further explained the current number of SROs couldn’t sustain the demands for safeguarding students in district schools. Sherriff Breedlove and Officer Gilmore requested an additional six officers.
In 2011 the county received a state grant to implement a School Resource Office Program for three years. At the completion of the three-year grant, the officer’s salaries were funded through the school district’s budget and the sheriff’s department supplied used patrol vehicles.
It was noted during the meeting the school board had an estimated $5 million dollars in the school’s Fund Balance and consideration was given to allot funding from the accumulated funds.
Chair of the Cheatham County School Board Kimberly Messer spoke up regarding growth from Nashville impacting Cheatham County. If in the near future the county needed new or additional schools due to the growth from neighboring municipalities, any funds accumulated in the Fund Balance would be necessary to supplement some of the cost. Messer did agree SROs were needed in district schools but she wasn’t sure how to fund the program through the already tight school budget.
Commissioners Dr. Connie Mayo and Diane Pike-Lovell suggested the county and school board work together to split funding of the officers for the remaining school year, giving them time to decide how to designate money to facilitate additinal officers in all county wide schools. Lovell stated she wanted to see SROs at each school in the district providing safety, not limiting or prioritizing one school over the other.
Sherriff Breedlove and Officer Gilmore were in agreement, appreciating the understanding by commissioners to look into how to alleviate the demand on the current SROs while increasing security at all schools.
Commissioners agreed students today are dealing with issues not understood by their parents and grandparents. The recognized implementing programs, hiring counselors, teachers and SROs to work together, staying ahead of the rapidly increasing issues of students today would be essential in keeping Cheatham County students safe.
Cheatham County School Board Chair Kimberly Messer and Cheatham County Commissioners agreed to prioritize reviewing the facilitation of SROs in district schools.
**Article published in The I-24 Exchange Newspaper distributed in Pleasant View, Tennessee on Saturday, October 22, 2016. www.exchangehotspot.com
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