Ham Co school superintendent, County Commissioner say SROs are not enough to keep kids safe in schools
Dr. Justin Robertson says SROs are only a part of what is needed for safety in schools
CHATTANOOGA (WDEF) – Safety in Hamilton County schools are continually being discussed by people in the community.
This morning, it was the Hamilton County Commission’s turn to ask what is going to be enough.
The mass shootings that happened in Chattanooga the last two weekends put all of the city and county’s leadership on high alert.
Not just about what’s in the streets, but also in the schools.
The shooting at a school near San Antonio a couple weeks ago bears the question of what the role is for a school resource officer, or SRO, no matter what the threat.
Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson has an answer to that.
“One thing we know about kids is if they feel welcomed and feel valued, they’ll talk to you. And, often times, they’ll tell SRO’s information that keeps something from happening inside the school, and, often times, outside the school. So, SRO’s should be building strong relationships with kids to help them feel valued so that information gets put on to the officer.”
Robertson and County Commissioner Katherlyn Geter both agree that representation matters when it comes to trusting an SRO or law enforcement officer with information. Geter says gun violence at schools don’t target one race or type of people.
“This is not, again, a Brainerd High School problem or a Howard problem. When I left yesterday, it was brought to my attention. ‘Commissioner Geter, let’s not forget our kids in East Hamilton schools. Let’s not forget our kids in Soddy-Daisy.’ These kids are witnessing the same horrific sadness that all of us are experiencing. They probably know the students that are being affected, that are right now in our hospital systems that, unfortunately, have been affected by gun violence.”
The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office says they provide 32 SRO’s to the schools, and the district provides the rest that are available. Robertson and Geter agree that keeping children safe doesn’t rest with more resource officers.
Robertson: “This is a problem that doesn’t have a singular solution. It’s a plethora of steps that we have to take to keep kids safe. From mental health services, more counselors, more behavior specialists, all the way to partnering with our juvenile justice system.”
Geter: “It’s going to take counseling. It’s going to take programs. It’s going to take, yes, safety at schools. That would include SRO’s. So, until we really are willing to just stop looking at this one-sided and really look at it holistically and go deeper into the problem, into the issue, we’re not going to stop the violence.”
Dr. Robertson told me he believes there are common-sense gun laws the state legislature and Congress can do to help keep children safe in schools.
A bipartisan group of senators in Washington are in talks to put together a package on guns that would reform background checks, encourage state ‘red flag’ laws, enhance school safety and provide new mental health programs.
It would take 60 senators to vote ‘yes’ to make it into law.