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Lack of willing workers affects school security

A new security building on the circle driveway in front of Farragut High School may remain unmanned if no one wants to work as a school security officer.

FHS principal Michael Reynolds wants to make the campus more secure by stopping vehicles coming onto the campus and having drivers show identification to the Knox County Schools security officer posted there. Reynolds said he plans to use the security stop between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Morning and afternoon traffic would continue as normal, and would not have to make the stop.

His plan is for one security officer to be moving around campus all the time and the other to be checking in traffic.

The school is supposed to have two security officers on campus, but currently has only one, said Steve Griffin, chief of security for Knox County Schools System. In addition to those two security officers, an officer from the Knox County Sheriff’s Office also patrols the school.

Griffin said that since 9-11, every school is supposed to have an assigned sheriff’s officer, but he added that the officer may not be there all the time.

The problem is a shortage of school security officers. “I’ve been short all year,” Griffin said. Karns and Bearden high schools are also short a school security officer.

Security officers hired by KCS receive $8.50 an hour and a 200-day contract, he said. Although they are eligible for benefits such as insurance and retirement, the contract leaves them with no summer employment.

Charles “Chuck” James, 6th School Board representative, said he would favor increasing the hourly wage.

“I think we should always put the security of our children first,” he said. “We do have a pool of $3.6 million to use for pay raises for certified and non-certified employees. We definitely could look at upping the hourly pay rate of those employees.”

A similar security system is being used at Karns and South Doyle high schools, Griffin said. “The system works O-K for what they use it for,” he said, adding that each school has its own needs.

“Security problems are cyclical,” Griffin said, adding that the most common problems he sees across the county are fights, theft, drugs and alcohol. He said the security department’s priority has to be weapon prevention.

“A lot of the time, drug dealers are not kids in high school, but they have contact with high school kids,” he said. “I applaud any principal who’s trying to make his campus more secure.”

“Not any one incident precipitated it [security building]; it’s the fact that you have a large volume of traffic,” Reynolds said.

One problem he said he’s trying to address is students from other schools who want to come on campus, particularly during lunch time.

“Some are legitimate and some are not. They’re just coming over to see whomever they can see,” Reynolds said.


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