After the most recent tragic and horrific events that occurred in Florida at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018, our Nation, especially our law enforcement and educational systems, has once again been forced to re-evaluate the safety of our students and how we address violence in our public schools.
There are many ideas that have been offered from every side of the political system. Nevertheless, I believe the main objective is clear – we must protect our children and harden our schools against violence.
As sheriff, ultimately it is my responsibility to ensure the citizens of Hamilton County are safe and secure. This includes our most valuable assets, our children. As President Harry Truman used to say, “The buck stops here.”
First and foremost, I believe the best way to ensure our schools are safe is to have a trained, P.O.S.T. certified School Resource Officer (SRO) in each school dedicated to the safety of our students. Presently, the HCSO has (31) SRO’s in (29) schools in Hamilton County. This is a good start, but it is not enough.
The issue with hiring more SRO’s for our public schools boils down to one issue, funding. In order to add SRO’s to all of our local public schools would add a huge additional burden to tax payers that could potentially reach upwards four to five million dollars. Therefore, until this funding is secured, as Sheriff I must consider every viable option to keep our children and our schools safe.
Some of the options that have been offered include enhanced security and surveillance systems, newer schools designed with safe rooms and secure locations for students, bullet resistant windows and doors and locking devices, and yes, even the possibility of giving teachers the opportunity to be armed. The later would of course require not only a change to state law, but would also require extensive P.O.S.T. compliant training with annual in-service training and intensive background checks, similar to those performed for law enforcement personnel.
Let me be clear, arming certain, qualified, volunteer teachers is not my first choice… nor is it my second or third. However, as Sheriff, I must take into account all viable options to protect our children and our schools. Just like with most law enforcement agencies, funding is a serious issue for the HCSO. My administration constantly works to find new ways to cut costs and do more with less than ever before.
Rest assured, my staff and I are committed to working with our local, state, and federal elected officials, local law enforcement our local school board and Department of Education, including our teachers and parents, to find the best, most appropriate way to move forward and protect our children and our schools.
_ Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond