In its most recent meeting, Cleveland's Sheriff-Elect Steve Lawson’s transition team tackled the issue of school safety. Referring back to the plan Mr. Lawson laid out during the campaign the group began discussions regarding the logistics of implementing the comprehensive plan.
“My goal during the campaign was to lay out a plan that takes the threat of school safety seriously.” Mr. Lawson said. “We have been fortunate in our community that we have not experienced the tragedy that other parts of our country have seen. We cannot take that for granted and must remain vigilant. My plan does just that.”
The group reviewed the six key points the plan addresses:
· Pushing for legislation that allows for the creation of a School Threat Multi-Disciplinary Review Team. This team will consist of representatives from School Guidance, Children & Family Services, Mental Health, Juvenile Court, Probation, Parole, Law Enforcement, and any other discipline deemed relevant in individual cases under review. This team will closely monitor students and others deemed a potential threat and their status reviewed on a regular basis until a threat no longer exists.
· Establish a 24-hour hotline to report school threats. Each call will be thoroughly investigated by a specially trained officer and report his/her findings to the multi-disciplinary team for review. That team will assess the potential threat and take appropriate action.
· Provide special training to officers to investigate and monitor the social media postings of any person under review, and the nature of these postings will become part of the review process.
· Push for legislation to require professionals to report incidents of threatening behavior, including verbal threats and social media messages and posts. Similar to the requirements on professionals to report alleged child abuse. We will protect those making the reports in good faith from liability claims.
· Provide special training from the Tennessee Office of Homeland Security and other legitimate sources regarding school violence, social media usage, and threat profiles for school officials, teachers, SROs, patrol officers, criminal investigators, juvenile court officers, probation, parole, and members of the multi-disciplinary team.
· Partner with the Educational Safety Director to provide annual security and threats assessments. Ask our local legislator to push for more state funded safety and security equipment for our local schools to take the burden of the cost from the local taxpayers as much s possible.
Mr. Lawson acknowledges that his plan will not be implemented overnight. “This will be a work in progress, and requires close cooperation between the BCSO, The District Attorney’s Office, the school system, and our local state legislators.”
One immediate issue Mr. Lawson hopes to address is increased training and certification for the officers working in the schools. “Our fine SROs carry the highest certification available, POST Certification. It will be important to me moving forward that any additional officers we have in our schools carry this same level of certification, including those working at the gates.”
Mr. Lawson is also committed to personally being involved in the schools. He said, “I will take time to visit our schools, and I look forward to attending special events such as the D.A.R.E graduations. I will show my support for our schools by walking the halls and sharing time with teachers and students. Safety in our schools will be among my highest priorities.”
Mr. Lawson looks forward to working closely with the District Attorney’s office and the school board to be proactive. He said, “This is going to be a team effort. It isn’t important that anyone gets credit, it is just important that we get better.”