I’d like to share some thoughts concerning the lack of school resource officers in Hamilton County schools. I am an extremely proud school counselor at Hixson High School. A colleague calls me the “Hixson High Evangelist.” Call me what you may, but I have many reasons for being compelled to share the good news of Hixson High on a daily basis.
When I heard Sheriff Hammond tell the school board Thursday evening that SRO’s are preferable but it is cheaper and easier to train armed school staff I was almost overcome. Not because I don’t understand the expense of training and keeping SRO’s. I do. Not because I fail to believe in the 2nd amendment. I do. I was overcome because the discussion centered on the idea that we simply need trained personnel (more than likely teachers and other staff volunteers) with a gun and it will help slow down a situation until authorities arrive.
It would not take a prolonged visit at Hixson High to see that a SRO is far more than a trained person with a gun. I’d like to introduce you to Officer Jimmy Bowers, part of the heartbeat of our school and SRO for eight years. He also coaches our archery team who happen to be Hamilton County Champions for the past four-five years. Some of the students refer to Officer Bowers as “Dr. Phil.” Some lovingly call him “Egghead.” He’s always present and always available to students.
Because of his leadership and more importantly the trust he has earned with his student body by building relationships, we have a culture of safety that our students value and don’t want to lose. If students see something, they say something. They know him, love him, and trust him. He speaks truth and draws that hard line when he has to. He knows every kid. The popular one, the weird one, the lonely one…he knows them all. Most importantly he loves them all. He knows peer groups and patterns and he’s an extension of our counseling staff. We have tag teamed in my office more times than I can count.
Sheriff Hammond stated the total cost of a first year SRO would add up to $100,000. I also understand that SRO’s are not able to be promoted. I understand that right now the school board is tasked with finding an interim solution and options are limited. I understand Sheriff Hammond’s options are limited because the pool is too small. To my local and state officials I beg of you to do whatever is necessary to find the means to put more Jimmy Bowers in our schools. Do state laws need to be changed so SRO’s may receive a pay raise and promotion? There are questions I plan to ask my elected officials and I hope you do the same.
Certainly, we have seen armed citizens stop the unimaginable. I cannot question that. However in a time when teachers have been given at least 75 hats to wear in a day, please let’s not expect to add this to their plate as well. After all, I don’t feel safe because there’s an officer with a gun in my building. I feel safe because of the other work he’s doing 100 percent of the time. Because he’s never had to use his gun anyways.
Let’s do what it takes to have more Jimmy Bowers in our schools. Because being proactive works. And Go Wildcats.
Hixson High School