Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Guns in my town's schools

By Donald Sensing

This photo was taken inside a high school in the Tennessee county where I live:


It is from the website of The Tennessean newspaper and is captioned:
A school resource officer watches hallway happenings at Centennial High School in Franklin. / Shelley Mays / File / The Tennessean
School resource officers are law-enforcement officers who have been assigned full time to middle and high schools of Williamson County, Tenn., for many years. Other Tennessee counties' school systems have them, too.

Understand that, as the photo shows, these officers are armed and always have been. This has been completely uncontroversial here. After all, aren't cops supposed to be armed? The SRO program's costs are shared between the school system and the sheriff's department. In truth, the program was started not to protect students from harm but as an anti-drug measure. SROs have on occasion arrested students for violations of drug laws.

Nonetheless, their armed presence is a deterrent against anyone coming to commit harm.

Because of the massacre at Sandy Hook school, Williamson County officials plan to start putting SROs in elementary schools as soon as they can get the funding. So there is a change in mission coming for the officers.
Williamson County Mayor Rogers Anderson said he would ask County Commissioners for $1.7 million to fund hires for school resource officers for all elementary schools and Middle College High School. 
Currently, school resource officers fall under the county sheriff’s office jurisdiction, in addition they are stationed at middle and most high schools. Until funds can be secured for the new resource officers, local police departments have agreed to step up their presence in and around local schools.
For the record, Williamson County, Tenn., is the 17th-wealthiest county in America. This is not where hicks live in the sticks. In 2006, Nissan relocated its North American headquarters here from Los Angeles, which may give you some idea of the county's educational, cultural and financial resources.

Update: California have been putting armed officers in their schools for many years, too.
When I was a middle school teacher in Los Angeles from 1994 until 2009, we had an armed cop on campus just about every day. My school was hardly unique.
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