Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Several districts look into school police forces

Metro backs off its interest, but Knox, Memphis are still pursuing the idea Associated Press • January 29, 2008 Several Tennessee school districts are interested in creating their own police forces, but first they must decide whether the officers would be school officials or law enforcement personnel. A study from the state Education Department says the answer could affect things like when students can be searched and whether discipline records might be available to the public. Memphis city schools first expressed interest in a school police force in 2006. The district's security office has presented a proposal to the school board for eliminating Memphis police officers in schools in favor of an 87-person school police force. The change would cost $3 million above the security office's current $7.1 million annual budget. According to a survey, Knox and Davidson county schools are interested in the idea of a school police force as well. A Metro schools associate superintendent said last fall that the system was considering the idea, but school officials later said the system was not pursuing it. Hamilton cool to idea Knox County uses a combination of its own security officers and local law enforcement officers. Knox County schools security chief Steve Griffin says money would be an issue if the district decided to hire all its own officers. "I like to be optimistic and think someday this may come about in some way, shape or form," he said. "I'm always interested in doing anything that I feel would help the school system." Hamilton County school officials are not interested in the idea. "I know the superintendent has said he doesn't ever want to have to choose between a teacher and an officer" in a tight budget year, spokeswoman Danielle Clark said. "The teacher's going to win. How can they not? We're in the business of kids."

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