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Staff File Photo By Matt Hamilton / School resource officer Mike Houston watches as Logan Mabry, 11, aims an arrow during archery practice at Loftis Middle School in February.

"I'm going to make him an offer he can't refuse."

— Vito Corleone, "The Godfather"

With the May school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in their rear view mirror, Hamilton County Board of Education members on Thursday approved spending nearly $1 million from their rainy day fund to hire and train security guards at schools that currently don't have any and petitioned the Hamilton County Commission for $1 million to help them finish the job.

The school board may not have the same skills to convince as the mafia don in "The Godfather," but asking the commission to meet them almost halfway seems like a fair bargain.

It was an administrative resolution that found unanimous 7-0 support from the board (with two absences).

Yes, we're not unaware that all of the money that's being requested — whether from school board or commission coffers — is taxpayer money, but both boards have been known to be quite circumspect with their rainy day funds.

And we bet the taxpaying public would vote a resounding "yes" to spending the money, knowing that it might provide their children's schools a modicum more of safety than they have now.

The money, the public should clearly understand, is for security guards, not school resource officers (SRO). Both are armed, may detain and can use force, but security officers cannot make arrests. School resource officers also are currently employed by local law enforcement agencies, while security guards may or may not have had previous law enforcement training.

The board's hope is that if the commission goes along with its request — in an amendment to its fiscal 2023 budget — and supplies the $1 million, the board would then include an annual amount of $1.8 million in its yearly budget going forward.

Tiffanie Robinson, the school board's vice chair, told this page Friday that — with or without commission help — "we're committed to going as far as we can to get as many schools staffed."

We would hope that, as money becomes available along the way and given the tight job market, the goal be that every school would some day have an SRO.

Robinson said that was a possibility.

"The main idea," she said, "is to make sure every school has a security presence."

Currently, 25 schools have neither an SRO or a security officer.

The Uvalde shooting obviously prompted Thursday's proposal, but it's not like the district has been lax in attempting to update security in the district's 79 schools. They've hired a director of security, put in camera systems and installed keyless entrances.

School officials say they've also spent $5 million over the past few years tightening school entrances.

Superintendent Justin Robertson told this newspaper earlier this month that the "hardened" entrances are locked and require a badge swipe to enter a locked holding area. The holding areas also require a badge swipe to exit, whereupon visitors must then visit the school's office and have a scanned ID and be checked through a visitor management system that looks for red flags.

Robinson said none of the entrances have metal detectors.

"The money has primarily been spent on access control systems," she said. "I don't believe we have discussed metal detectors, but [that] could be something the district looks at."

By law, Tennessee schools also are required to conduct at least one active shooter drill per academic year, a process that has been hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, Robertson said. However, he said in addition to the drills, teachers and staff undergo additional training.

We hope the school district's offer is one the Hamilton County Commission can't refuse. Having one or more security members in each school cannot guarantee the safety of every student, but they are an added layer of protection that isn't there now for many schools and does potentially put an armed expert between a shooter and the shooter's targets.

School officials said they would begin hiring and recruitment — albeit in a tough job market — immediately.

If the county commission kicks in the requested $1 million from its rainy day fund, perhaps the district could have at least one security staff member in place at the start of the 2022-2023 school year. And wouldn't that give parents and students an extra sigh of relief?

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