NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — School safety is a top concern for one in three Tennessee parents, according to a recent Vanderbilt Medical Center child health policy poll.
Metro Nashville Council and the state of Tennessee have invested millions since the Covenant School shooting to improve school safety and security and many of those initiatives are starting to come online.
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Next week, Metro Nashville Schools hopes to begin using a gun detection software from Omnilert that has been integrated into their surveillance cameras. Last year, Metro Council approved a $1 million contract for the technology.
“When there is video image with a gun, as long as a human being can see it, it picks up in a fraction of a second,” explained Omnilert CEO Dave Fraser.
A MNPS spokesperson also said they are in the process of installing shatter-resistant film to school windows and doors. The project was estimated to cost $5 million.
Last year, the Director of Metro Schools said the investment may save lives.
“While there are a few practical levels of security that can completely stop someone with a weapon of war from gaining access to our buildings, we can make it more difficult and buy time for our staff to implement safety protocols and for the police to respond,” Dr. Adrienne Battle said.
However, according to the VUMC poll, 80% of Tennessee parents want to see a law enforcement officer or a school resource officer in every school. After the Covenant shooting, lawmakers approved $140 million to fund that initiative.
“With this funding, we are taking the burden off of teachers and schools and districts/there is no excuse not to have a guard at every school,” Gov. Bill Lee (R-Tennessee) said in April of last year.
Months after that call to action, there’s a MNPD school resource officer in every MNPS middle school and high school. But there are none inside elementary schools.
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In a statement to News 2, MNPS said there are other measures in place to protect elementary school students.
“Our team has been working with the Metro Nashville Police Department to develop an effective and age-appropriate elementary School Resource Officer program, as part of our broader collaboration and partnership around school safety. SROs are selected from the existing police force, and so we understand that it may take a while for staffing to catch up with the need and desire for more SROs,” MNPS said.
Metro Police also said they have added additional patrols and police officers outside elementary schools, particularly during pick-up and drop-off times.
SROs in elementary schools have been a polarizing topic among Metro council members. While some say they are necessary to increase safety, others worry SROs will lead to the over-policing of minority students.
“We asked for gun reform plain and simple. We asked for it. We demanded it. We marched. We processed it. We cried and we got money for police officers in schools,” said Metro Council member at large, Delishia Porterfield.
There are non-law enforcement officials inside MNPS elementary schools as part of the school safety ambassador program.
School safety ambassadors are non-law enforcement officials who are trained on safety protocols. So far 59 of the 70 positions have been filled with eight people currently in the HR process.
Ambassadors offer an extra layer of security by checking doors, patrolling the school perimeter and making sure protocols are being followed.