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No price too high for safety of our schoolchildren

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I am writing in response to the editorial in the Roane County News April 3 edition. It made a valid point regarding the price for placing resource officers in our schools.

The questions I ask in response are how much is your child worth and what would you pay to keep your child safe?

The RCN is correct in stating that the key word here is “resource.” What resource are we discussing? The RCN is talking money, while those of us charged with your children’s safety are talking about another resource which is irreplaceable — our children. In the words of an old credit card commercial, “Which of the two is priceless?”

As a committee, we have discussed the rotation of school resource officers between schools.

In some areas, the SROs serve schools several miles apart, making their response time most likely at least 5-10 minutes. The shooter at Sandy Hook was able to get off 154 rounds of ammunition between 9:46 and 9:49 a.m.

We are keenly aware as a community and a nation of our vulnerability to not only active shooters but hostile intruders — probably the biggest threat — such as upset parents and even disgruntled employees.

More than  60 percent of the expense to secure our schools is a one-time expense.   

The RCN is correct in stating that if someone desires to commit an act of violence they are likely to do so. So as we have with prayer and other cornerstones of American life, we should sit back and just let it happen and then dissect it to infinity as to what we could have done or didn’t do to prevent it.

It would be my guess that the RCN would be one of the first to criticize the schools and law enforcement for failing to do enough should this unlikely violence occur here. That is what news outlets do.  The odds are in our favor it won’t but, frankly, I don’t like gambling on the lives of children.

I have since January advocated the hiring of retired police officers as additional SROs. I have proposed this to our local representatives in state government. It would take a change in state retirement law for this to occur. Just today I read where Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland had a proposal to provide for this change. Passage would allow schools to hire certified and experienced police officers to work as SROs without having to pay full-time benefits. This would be a tremendous savings for school systems.

This is a hot question and no one wants to pay more taxes. Neither do I, but I also understand my responsibility as a parent, grandparent, and elected official that I have to do my best to provide the safest security for our community and schools while being fiscally responsible.

Difficult decisions must be made and they will not be made lightly. Neither decision will be totally popular.

I respect and appreciate the opinion of the RCN and of those who are in agreement with them.

It comes down to what we consider the most valuable resource we have: money or children. The RCN has made it’s choice known so now the choice is yours — money or children.

Danny Wright, chairman,
Commission and School Board
Subcommittee on School Safety