Resolution Supporting Superintendent's Decision To Not Arm School Staff Fails

  • Saturday, June 22, 2024
  • Hannah Campbell

A resolution supporting the superintendent’s decision not to arm school staff failed Thursday night at the school board’s monthly meeting.

School board member Jill Black proposed the resolution in support of Superintendent Dr. Justin Robertson’s April announcement that Hamilton County Schools will not pursue the option to arm some teachers, in the wake of a new Tennessee law.

A bill passed in April allows individual school superintendents, county sheriffs and school principals to choose to arm existing school staff after multi-layered vetting and training. The law is aimed at districts that cannot find or fund armed security officers in all of their schools, Dr. Robertson said.

His statement, released in April, reads, “We have partnered with Sheriff Garrett to ensure that every campus has an appropriately equipped School Resource Deputy or School Safety Officer.

“I recognize that other districts in Tennessee are not as well positioned to provide trained SRDs or SSOs in their schools. Given the ability of our community to provide armed personnel in every building, I will not recommend arming any other person in a Hamilton County School.”

School board member Joe Wingate, who voted against the resolution, told the board he would not support any resolution instructing a superintendent on any topic.

He said he had spoken with Hamilton County Sheriff Austin Garrett Thursday, and that there are too many questions about how to integrate the practice with a non-law enforcement firearm.

“He feels like some things have been rushed,” Mr. Wingate said. “I don’t feel informed enough, or good enough, about any of it. There’re just way too many factors here.”

School board member Larry Grohn agreed.

“We’ve got a lot of dangling issues here,” he said, and called the resolution “well-intentioned but premature.”

School board member Marco Perez, who voted in favor of the resolution, said the new state law leaves superintendents “exposed” as one of the sole players in a big decision.

“I want to back up our superintendent,” he said.

School board member Rhonda Thurman added that school districts across the country have implemented the practice of arming school staff since 2007.

“I have yet to find one problem,” she said.

Board members Larry Grohn, Gary Kuehn, Faye Robinson, Rhonda Thurman, Joe Wingate and Chairman Joe Smith voted against the resolution.

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