Haslam Non Committal on Funding Officers in Elementary Schools

Governor Bill Haslam listens to Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons at a recent meeting. Image courtesy TN Photo Services

Governor Bill Haslam listens to Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons at a recent meeting. Image courtesy TN Photo Services

Governor Bill Haslam is trying to avoid kneejerk reactions to the deadly shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. He wants to hear more before committing additional state money for armed law enforcement officers in elementary schools.

Haslam says everyone from business owners to school principals are rethinking safety and security this month. Williamson and Sumner county schools have proposed putting armed school resource officers in lower grades.

In most districts, the SROs are limited to middle and high schools. Part of the money comes from the state, but Governor Haslam says he’s slow to increase funding on a case-by-case basis.

“Let’s just say we’re going to put school resource officers in and the school district is going to put in X million and the municipality is going to put up Y million and will the state put in Z million? Well, I don’t think that’s fair unless we look at it on a statewide basis.”

The cost of putting armed officers in Williamson County’s elementary schools alone would run close to $2 million.

Currently the state offers just $4.8 million in grants to districts. Roughly a third of them pair the money with local funding for resource officers. Others buy security cameras.

In response to the Connecticut shootings, the state is organizing a school safety conference in January, hosted by the district in Williamson County.

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