Rutherford County has shortage of school resource officers

WSMV's Brendan Tierney has a look at what's being done to solve the SRO shortage problem in Rutherford County.
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 6:53 PM CDT
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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WSMV) - School safety is under the microscope in Rutherford County due to a shortage of School Resource Officers and the Sheriff’s Department not being included in school safety discussions.

Rutherford County is currently looking to fill nine open SRO positions that protect buildings across the county, Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh told county commissioners during a meeting this week. With those openings, the department is having to use supervisors to cover schools and rely on patrol officers to do things like window and door checks.

This comes at the same time county leaders are questioning why law enforcement is not part of the conversation about security in the planning of major additions at five schools. These projects are needed due to the increasing population and will replace temporary classrooms that are currently being used.

“We keep asking but we have not been included,” Sheriff Fitzhugh said. “Sometimes, from a safety perspective, our SROs can make recommendations based on experiences at other schools. On either design or traffic layout or layout on how ingress and egress in a school situation, so I think it would be a plus if they could be included.”

Rutherford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips is sharing the Sheriff’s frustrations about this lack of communication that he said could put students in danger. Phillips asked school leaders about the issue during a public safety meeting on Tuesday night in hopes of getting better security at schools.

“That is definitely something we can fix,” Rutherford County Director of Schools Jimmy Sullivan said in response to Phillips’ question. “I will look as to why they have not been invited because we need to have a partnership. Our SROs are funded by our country sheriff department and that is a huge asset to our county. Anything we can do to increase that partnership or ultimately it falls on us as a school district to maintain and support and secure that building.”

Parents of Rutherford County Schools students said they are encouraged by the increased communication. Lovelyne Hatchet said she does not feel safe sending her kids to school right now and worries every day about them returning home safe.

“Where my kids go to school, now, before you pick the kids up you have to show your ID,” Lovelyne said. “Which is very good, but I don’t think that is enough.”

“We need (the SROs) to say, ‘hey this is the kind of protection that we need. This is what will work better for us. This is how we will be able to help to protect these children,” Lovelyne continued.

Sheriff Fitzhugh said his department can’t fill SRO positions with just any deputy because there are special requirements and training needed to work in a school. However, he is working to get people certified and into buildings by the end of this semester, and already has one person in the pipeline.