Metro School officials say despite future legislation that may allow school districts to create private police forces, they have no plans to do so now.
One official said that while the district would look at any initiative from the state that would have an impact on the district, there is too little information about the process for police presence at this time.
“We just have no plans to do it,” said Ralph Thompson, assistant superintendent of Student Services for the district.
A spokesperson for the state Department of Education (DOE) said the department is looking into the option of allowing school districts to create police forces, but only for the purpose of presenting information to the General Assembly when it convenes in January.
“We’re to develop a report that [looks at districts] elsewhere in the nation [that] have developed their own police forces, how successful have they been and we’ll present that report to the General Assembly in January,” said Rachel Woods, DOE spokesperson.
There is no way to truly know the financial implication of creating a private police force within a school district, officials say.
Metro Schools has had a long-standing relationship with the Metro Police Department dating back nearly 12 years when the district began using School Resource Officers (SRO), or registered police officers who monitor students while in school.
There are two SROs in each high school with the exception of magnet schools Nashville School of the Arts, Hume-Fogg and Martin Luther King, and one SRO in each of the middle schools, according to the Metro Police.
There are a total 70 officers in the SRO program, including administration.
Thompson said the relationship with Metro police has been great and following a recent meeting with officers and administrators, he is confident the groups can “strengthen our unity and be united on one front.”
“They do an incredible job for us on a daily basis,” Thompson said. “We believe together that working together we’ll be able to make a significant impact on the safety of our schools,” he said.
Recent data released by the school district shows that the number of assaults on students reached its highest level this year with 5,274 total across the district. Over the past three years the district has seen a nearly 20 percent increase in total student assaults district-wide.
The school district made a clarification last week, stating that the number of assaults on students and teachers included such actions as brandishing a pencil or throwing a book — “the kind of impulsive and usually harmless behavior that has occurred in school rooms for generations,” according to the district ‘Children First!’ publication, a weekly news and information report.
“However, MNPS (Metro Nashville Public Schools) reports those numbers because we are very serious about making our schools secure because safety is our No. 1 concern,” according to the report.
Thompson said the school district and police are dedicated to improving safety in schools and are in the process of assembling a student assault task force that will allow students the opportunity to talk with school administrators and police representatives.