By MIKE WEST
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.