Loudon school security decision questioned in wake of shootings

Budget move cut number of officers

By Hugh G. Willett knoxnews.com

Loudon County parents and school board members are expressing their concerns about school security following last week's school shooting in Connecticut.

Early in the school year, the city of Loudon decided to pull its police officers out of county schools located in the city limits.

Former Loudon City Councilman Lewis Garner spoke out against the cuts when it came up for a vote.

"I thought it was wrong at the time," he said. "In light of what has happened, I still say it was wrong not to put the safety of our children first."

Garner said he wishes the school department and the city would have put more effort into reaching a compromise on funding the officers. The issue was treated more like a budget issue than a school safety issue, he said.

Schools Director Jason Vance said he had received communications from parents concerned about their children's safety. He also said that the schools were reviewing security and emergency procedures.

"Today, we may have to show them support, comfort and remind them that school is one of their safest places," Vance said in a letter to parents and staffers.

"Our administrators along with school resource officers and local law enforcement regularly review the school safety plans that have been developed specifically for each school. School teams practice them on a regular basis."

The decision to remove city of Loudon police officers from the schools was made for budget reasons by the Loudon City Council in September. Loudon city police officers stationed at the elementary, middle and high schools were replaced by a single Loudon County sheriff's deputy assigned to all three schools.

"I think we need a school resource officer in every school," said Loudon County school board member Scott Newman.

Newman, a sergeant with the Loudon Police Department, said he is also concerned about physical security at some of the older schools in the county.

"Our older schools were not built with security in mind," he said.

New schools under construction incorporate design features that help enhance security, he said.