NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Law enforcement in Highlands Ranch, CO, said there was not a school resource officer at the site of Tuesday’s shootings, though they had contracted with a private company.
In Tennessee, legislation concerning SROs is headed to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk.
After a classmate pulled out a gun in class, Kendrick Castillo couldn't just stay still. He was surrounded by the friends he considered family and they were all in danger.
Out of more than 1,500 schools in Tennessee, about 500 of them do not have an SRO. Many of those cases are schools in rural areas.
A spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Education said about 15% of schools use a security officer, 2% use off-duty law enforcement officers and 6% of schools have no law enforcement or security presence at all.
The legislature recently passed legislation that is set to change that, placing an SRO in every K-12 school in Tennessee.
Tennessee's Department of Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn said in a statement:
“The events that happened in Colorado are tragic and heartbreaking. It is critical that schools are a safe space for students to grow and learn. Governor Lee’s school safety legislation and accompanying funding are key to helping Tennessee school districts ensure the safety of their students. The specific focus on school resource officers is extremely important because SROs provide law enforcement services to the entire school community, a strategy that has proven effective at reducing violence. In addition, SROs build relationships with students, teachers, administrators, and other school personnel to help identify and address a myriad of school climate concerns. We are committed to continuing to invest in areas that promote a safe and healthy school environment, such as mental health supports which will be a key area of focus in our strategic plan.”
"Our children are our top priority and why we would accept anything less than the best standard is not acceptable," said Rep. Brandon Ogles, R-Franklin.
A spokesperson for Metro Police said every SRO placed into a school has the exact same training as any other Metro officer.
"We're trying to get some equality across the state as far as safety funding to the districts," said Ogles. "Right now, some of the prosperous districts have more money available for education. They've been able to fund safety initiatives. The schools that do not have SROs, when they apply for their grant funding, the SRO will be given a priority. The mass event is very unlikely. However, there are things that happen every day that the officer is able to deal with to keep those children safe."
The authorities said that the adult suspect in the shooting, 18-year-old Devon Erickson, will likely make his first court appearance at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The new initiative brings school safety funding up to $50 million in 2019. It passed both the Senate and House with strong support.
"I can't see any funding mechanism by the state that's more important than this," said Ogles. "I wouldn't put a price on my children. I don't think anyone should ever say that. The price tag was not the focus. The focus was writing the bill in a way that protects our children and our teachers."