After Newtown, school board moves to fast-track security enhancements

Wednesday, January 9, 2013 at 12:08am

In light of last month’s elementary school shooting that shook the nation, Metro Nashville Public Schools officials are looking to shift dollars to speed up progress on school safety projects already in the works.

Issues high on the district’s to-do list are addressing locking systems on internal and external doors, ensuring all school employees wear ID cards, and making sure emergency exits are well identified.

“The immediate reaction is, let me make sure we’re doing things the right way,” Director of Schools Jesse Register told the district school board Tuesday in explaining his reaction to the school shooting in Connecticut that left 20 elementary school students and six school personnel dead.

Picking up the pace on the safety systems means shifting about $1.25 million in other capital project spending for improvements this budget year, according to Tony Majors, assistant superintendent of student services.

While the school assesses the state of its security systems, Tennessee lawmakers are considering moves to beef up the number of armed personnel in school buildings. MNPS is home to some 200 school safety officers for the district but has no armed officers in its 75 elementary schools, said Register.

While he said he’s open to discussion about safety needs — particularly in making sure all staff know what to do in the case of an emergency situation — Register said he is opposed to teachers carrying guns on campus.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate to have anyone armed in a school that is not a fully trained law enforcement officer,” he said.

At the same school board meeting, members unanimously approved a construction and renovation program that includes $159 million worth of projects the district wants to focus on in the 2013-14 school year, including the reopening of the former Waverly Belmont Junior High School as an elementary school.

The total construction budget reflects $1.2 billion in projects planned through 2019. Because funding for the projects is funneled through Metro government, the full six-year plan now heads to the Metro Council for review. School officials are primarily concerned with edits city officials make to the spending proposal for next school year.

10 Comments on this post:

By: NewYorker1 on 1/9/13 at 9:52

OMG!!! Is this really necessary? They are just looking for another excuse to raise taxes and get more money from us.

By: Specter47 on 1/9/13 at 10:21

Redirecting $1.25 million for school safety issues is the smartest thing Jesse Register will ever do. But "... addressing locking systems on internal and external doors, ensuring all school employees wear ID cards, and making sure emergency exits are well identifed," is NOT a plan! My gosh, man! Do you really believe that some whackjob bent on killing people is going to be concerned that he might get caught without the proper ID hanging on a lanyard around his neck? Do you really not believe that employees already know where the nearest emergency exits are? Get the locks on the doors that teachers are asking for, get some well-qualified people in our schools who are highly trained DEFENDERS OF OUR CHILDREN and then we'll feel confident that our kids are adequately protected. Anything short of this, and it'll be hanging over Jesse Register's head if a Sandy Hook-type incident were to occur here.

By: adchick on 1/9/13 at 12:50

It is poetic that on one hand the Metro-owned fairgrounds is playing host to a gun show this weekned (as they do EVERY month) on taxpayer-owned property so that any whack-job with cash in his pocket can buy a boatload of high-capacity magazines and assault rifles. And on the other hand they are spending money to keep this same whack-job from slaughtering our kids.

By: Robsr1 on 1/9/13 at 9:31

I absolutely favor securing entry points at schools and a locking system. I should note Columbine had an armed law enforcement officer. We can't just throw resources at a problem but we have to carefully craft a plan and carefully craft a plan to EFFECTIVELY manage those resources. That is key to insure ALL resources and armed personnel are in the right places at the right time doing what they are suppose to be doing. Not just hanging out. I also believe anywhere you have a large gathering of the public in confined places, we should have weapons screenings and security at entry points to prevent mass shootings.

By: govskeptic on 1/10/13 at 5:37

Very typical knee jerk reaction by lobbyist and politicians to throw taxpayer money at a solemn situation before more logical discussions and policies can be formulated.
With Medical now soaking up 25% of money, Law Enforcement is racing to get their
part of the pie as high or higher in the nation and virtually ever state. Much larger
number of death each yr to other problems than in our very-very safe schools.

By: firstworldproblems on 1/11/13 at 11:56

Specter47, the ID card would not be so that the shooter would fit in - it is intended for the exact opposite purpose. Any adult without an ID card would be a lot easier to spot much more quickly, so that teachers and other staff could react appropriately in removing that person from the building.

I think it's great that the lock systems will be updated. It is a much-needed improvement, as so many of the buildings are old and need updated security systems.

Also, there already are highly-trained defenders in the middle and high schools. Adding them to the 75 elementary schools in Nashville will be the expensive part.

By: Ask01 on 1/12/13 at 8:22

Not to worry, I feel certain the local NRA will quickly mobilize Larry, Darrell, and Daryl once they sober them up, to provide armed security around Metro Schools at little or no costs to the taxpayer.

By: courier37027 on 1/13/13 at 12:05

Not to worry, some ineffective TSA employees at the airport (who are soaking up taxpayer money) will have that second or fallback job at schools if that airline scrrening job doesn't pan out.

By: courier37027 on 1/13/13 at 12:05

scrrening = screening in previous post.

By: Ask01 on 1/13/13 at 7:59

I had not considered that option, courier37027. I thought the opportunity to seize property, feel up passengers, and feel unjustifiably superior would be too much to lure any of the TSA employees.

You are correct, though. If an angry America forces a dismantling of the TSA, those otherwise unemployable rejects will need some source of income on which they can fall back.

Perhaps the two groups can work together.