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Parents, teachers, gun experts offer ideas to make Sullivan County Schools safer

By Meredith Machen, mmachen@wcyb.com
Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:31:11 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 22 2013 04:47:00 PM CST
Commissioners

County commissioners listen to community thoughts on school safety.

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. -

Sullivan County leaders are brain-storming ways to beef up security while kids are in school. View photos: Sullivan County school safety 

This comes as a response to the deadly school massacre last month in Newtown, Connecticut.

News 5 sat in on Tuesday's county commission meeting and learned while opinions are mixed on just what to do, everyone wants at least something done.

When it comes to school safety, it's become a conversation almost everyone wants a say in.

From parents, to teachers, to citizens; Sullivan County commissioners got an earful of public opinion on how to keep children safe in the face of violence.

"We need an SRO in every school," said Jennifer Fox, a concerned parent.

"What if I accidentally kill students myself while trying to shoot the gunman?" asked Steve Thompson, a retired Sullivan County principal and teacher.

"I don't like to see children vulnerable, and I'll fight for them," said Jeannie Bourne, a concerned citizen.

"We not only have an SRO at the schools when they're in session and the children are there, but [we need to] take those gun free zone signs down," said Charles Leonard, another concerned citizen while speaking to commissioners.

School safety was an on-going dialogue that included listening to a presentation of safety ideas offered by gun experts from Shooters Edge. Their ideas included assessing school buildings to improve safety weaknesses and training teachers and faculty to be school marshals who are armed and ready for defense.

"It'll be completely concealed; their identity and weapon. They don't need to be known. They don't need to be walking around school with their gun hanging off their belt, and all this other stuff," said Mike Lewis with Shooters Edge.    

Sullivan County Sheriff Wayne Anderson told us he's not on board with arming teachers, but he does want a school resource officer in every county school.

"Police officers are trained, and they're trained, and they're trained, and they're trained," said Sheriff Anderson. "The officers we would put in the schools would be from our patrol division, so those people have had all kinds of experience."

We learned the ultimate recommendations will come from a county task force organized by the school system.

"I know everybody wants an answer yesterday, but we're looking at probably the next 30 days to really kind of have something flushed out," said Jubal Yennie, director of schools for Sullivan County.

We're told those ideas would eventually go through the school board, to the county's education committee, and then to the county commission for a full adoption.

Here are some facts that could impact the county budget:

Sheriff Anderson told us to put a school resource officer in every school will cost about $1.3 million the first year and about $900,000 for every year after that.

Shooters Edge officials said training volunteers to be school marshals would cost about $3,000 to $4,000 a person.

 View photos: Sullivan County school safety