WEST: SROs well worth considering

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Cannon County officials are beginning to consider adding SROs to local schools.

SRO isn't, in this case, an abbreviation for Standing Room Only, it instead refers to School Resource Officers. That's a "nice" way of referring to police officers who are assigned to schools.

We are talking about uniformed, gun-carrying police officers.

And before you shake your head in dismay, consider the fact that a number of Tennessee counties have had SROs in their schools for years. Nearby, Rutherford County is an example.

In every case I know of, these in-school police officers have proved to be a great addition to the schools' staff. In fact, they have had the side-effect of bolstering the connection between youngsters and law enforcement.

The need for that kind of protection, even in a small town, was proven last Dec. 14 when an emotionally disturbed 20-year-old stepped inside a school in little Newtown, Conn. and shot 26 people to death. Twenty of those who died were first-grade students.

An elementary school is an easy target for a crazy, mean person or someone wanting to gain fame at the expense of others.

Now in the wake of that horrible attack, officials in Newtown have formed a committee that is taking quick action to improve security at all of its schools. It is security committee is comprised of local law enforcement, school officials, information technology and facility safety experts.

Together they are addressing both immediate and long-term goals associated with building safety, personnel training and physical security measures.

Newtown's first step was to ensure that all its schools have only one door in and one out during school hours. That single controlled point of entry has been extended to include before and after school hours.

That would be a start in Cannon County as well. Cannon County is already looking at the possibilities thanks to School Board member Bruce Daniel, County Commissioner Kevin George and Sheriff Darrell Young,

Cannon County High School already has a SRO, but it is just a 10-hour a week part-time position.

Prevention is the name of the game and while it's not cheap, it is horrible to think of the alternative.

"We need to look at this like health insurance. We can't afford health insurance but we can't afford not the have it," Daniel told the Cannon County Board of Education last Thursday.

Board member Chris Blackburn agreed with Daniel and put it this way:

"It is no secret how strapped we are for money in Cannon County. I also think it is no secret that if you ask a parent who has a child in school what that life is worth they would tell you there is no dollar value on that life."

We must agree with that statement and urge our county leaders to act upon it.

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Mike West
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Members Opinions:
February 19, 2013 at 7:35am
SRO's are not new to Cannon County and I fully agree with the need to reinstate such positions, not only at the high school but in each of the elementary schools. Yes, there will be a cost. This is a long awaited off-set cost however that counties are faced with funding as the Federal and State govenments have cut funding for mental health care. The natural outcome of such actions would automatically transfer the responsibility to the lower govenments, the county. Sadly, such revenues are not possible at the local level and counties are left only with an option of protecting what they can against the ill effects of under-serviced mental health care. In short, if the Federal or State government will not deal with a growing mental health care need in this country, it lies lastly with our county to bring about protection for its citizens.
Having SRO's in the schools is also a great way of introducing students to the benefit of law enforcement as opposed to the only way most receive such exposure outside the school and on the streets. Learning to respect the law and those charged with upholding it can provide a great added bonus to our school age children while at the same time providing for their safety and well being.
You might ask as to what the alternative might be? Write your congressmen and legislators and demand they institute better mental health care programs in our state. Programs that take the criminally insane off the streets and place them in institutions where they can either be treated or maintained in such a way they don't walk into a school and kill 26 innocent people. This issue is not about guns and the Second Amendment. It is about our govenment's inability to confront the real issues of mental illness now released to run rampant in our country. Programs must be developed that identify those who are mentally ill and require treatment for them and enforce such requirements. Only by addressing the real problem here will the need for SRO's go away in our schools.
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