By Heather Mullinix
The Cumberland County Board of Education approved a resolution asking for the support of the Cumberland County Commission in funding Student Resource Officers (SROs) in Cumberland County Schools during its January meeting.
"SROs make students feel safer in the schools, build positive relationships with law enforcement and their presence promotes better behavior and citizenship," Gordon Davis, 5th District representative and chairman of the safety committee said. "It also improves emergency preparedness and response."
Jim Blalock, 8th District representative, said he asked a group of eighth-grade students at Pleasant Hill their thoughts on having SROs in schools.
"They said they had one at one time," Blalock told the board. "Some of the answers I got was that the officer was not only a police officer but became a friend."
David Bowman, 7th District representative, said a rough estimate of the first-year cost to provide SRO personnel in eight county schools would be $450,000 in order to train and equip new officers. SROs are experienced officers with special certification to work in schools and Bowman said new officers would likely be hired and trained to take over those experienced deputies' duties on patrol.
"These would be seasoned officers," Bowman said. "And, they're not going to be there to handle discipline. They're going to be there to teach classes on school safety and provide support. If we get an SRO program, we'll have seasoned officers that know how to do their job and will be there for the children and the teachers."
The city of Crossville provides two SROs for the school system, one at each of the high schools and providing support to Martin Elementary, all of which are inside the city limits.
To be a certified SRO, officers must complete a two-week training program.
"It would be great for our schools," said Bowman, who is a deputy with the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department. "For some kids, the only time they see us is when we're taking their mom or dad to jail. They don't realize we're not the enemy. This is a really good thing."
Sandy Brewer, 3rd District representative, asked if the officers would be employees of the school system. Director of Schools Aarona VanWinkle said state law prohibited the school system employing the officers directly. The school system has a memorandum of understanding that allows the city police department to come into the schools as SROs.
The resolution states, "The Cumberland County Board of Education wishes to promote a cooperative working environment with the Cumberland County Commission to fund SRO Officers for all schools in Cumberland County for the safety of our students and personnel, and for the betterment of our schools and the community."
The motion passed unanimously.
In other business, the board approved a budget amendment to move $1,400 from coordinated school health contracted services to travel expenses to allow physical education teachers to attend training in Nashville.
Also approved were school volunteers. At CCHS, Richard Jeremy Elliott, Alec Houston and Barry Lynn Mathis were approved. Stone Elementary added Sharon Mullins, Michael Johnson, James Adams, Karen Randall, Jerry Rush, Lyle Cobb, Shae Dodd, Croshia Dodd and Joanna Rivera to its volunteer list. McHaley Dianne Babich was approved at South Cumberland Elementary and Martin Elementary added Wei Jiang, Manish Patel, Ragini Patel, Rupal Patel, Kimberly S. Brown and Vanessa Myers as volunteers.