By Meg Dickens
The last few decades and the increase in school-related incidents have caused a rise in safety precautions in schools around the nation. Local schools have updated policies, purchased equipment, and hired personnel to help increase security from varying threats. Now one of the newest precautions will reportedly not be part of this school year. Several sources within the community say that Security Resource Officers (SROs) will drop from seven to two, leaving officers only at Johnson County High School. Both Johnson County Schools and the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office denied these rumors.
The idea of removing security personnel has local parents terrified. The Tomahawk received several concerned calls reporting the supposed change. Bolstering concerns, this news came directly after the Volunteer High School active shooter alert. Later reports say no shooter was involved, but the situation is close to home. Volunteer High is in Hawkins County, and now Johnson County will compete against the school thanks to recent redistricting.
When asked about the possible loss of SROs, Johnson County Schools was unaware. According to Elementary and Federal Programs Supervisor Angie Wills, who writes and applies for most grants related to the school system, they have not heard anything to suggest it would not go through. It is currently awaiting approval, and schools are expecting information from the state. In the meantime, Wills reports they sent word to Sheriff Eddie Tester on the six SROs, one for each school, meant to be employed this year.
“I don’t see any reason why we won’t get it,” Wills confirmed. “We have the funding.”
The Tomahawk followed up with Sheriff Eddie Tester, who has no idea how the allegations started. He reports that the SROs are currently in training and helping protect local children as we speak. Tester was displeased with the rumors and simply said they are “not true.”
History on Johnson County SROs
Johnson County Schools originally started with officers only present at the high school but hired five more officers back in August 2019. It was possible through the Safe Schools-School resource Officer Grant to hire an officer for each school in the district. The grant provides $175,000 towards SRO employment with a 25 percent match from the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department. The local share pays for equipment costs.
The grant has no guaranteed shelf-life, but in a statement made by Tester during the program’s genesis, Tennessee State Representative Timothy Hill seemed confident it would continue for the “foreseeable future.” Other factors make it seem like officials expect this program to continue for a long time as well. For example, the Johnson County School Board listed the grant approval as part of the consent agenda for its August meeting and ultimately approved it.