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Enhancing School Safety – Metro Nashville Public Schools | #schoolsaftey


In light of the recent tragic shooting at the Covenant School in our community, where lives were lost and families were forever affected, it is imperative that we address the issue of school safety head-on. Our hearts go out to the victims’ families, and we stand in solidarity with the Covenant community during their journey of healing and recovery.

However, it is essential to acknowledge that school safety has been a topic of concern for MNPS for many years, and the district has made significant efforts to ensure the security of our educational institutions. Below is an overview of the many features and protocols that have been developed and implemented over time, as well as our plans for the upcoming school year.

Investing in Safety Measures

Over the past few years, our school district, like many others across the nation, has made substantial investments to enhance security measures. These initiatives aim to create a safer environment for our students, staff, and visitors. Some of the key enhancements that have been implemented include:

Security Vestibules

These vestibules serve as a barrier between outside visitors and the main entrance, providing an additional layer of security and preventing unauthorized access to classrooms and school buildings.

AV Intercom Locks

Camera intercom locks have been installed on the main entrances of our school facilities, allowing front office staff to vet individuals seeking access and ensuring their legitimate purpose for entering the premises.

Routine Drills and Exercises

In compliance with state laws, various drills are conducted throughout the year, including fire drills, safety drills, and armed intruder drills. A new system has been implemented to monitor, track, and document these drills, ensuring preparedness and compliance.

Locked Classrooms

Doors in our schools have been retrofitted to allow teachers to lock them from the inside without opening the door. This measure aligns with national best practices, providing a secure space for students and staff in the event of an active shooter situation.

Security Cameras

Comprehensive security camera systems have been installed internally and externally in all our facilities, continuously upgraded to ensure optimal coverage and monitoring capabilities.

Badge Access Control

Door systems have been upgraded to include badge access, limiting entry to authorized individuals, including law enforcement and school personnel.

K9 Division

Our K9 unit, operated by the MNPS Security Team, is equipped to detect drugs and weapons, conducting random or targeted searches to ensure the safety of our schools.

Visitor Management System

Instant background checks are conducted when individuals enter our buildings, ensuring that they are not identified threats to our school or students. Visitors are always accompanied by a staff member during their visit.

Collaborative Efforts for Safety

SRO with dog and studentSchool safety in Nashville is a collaborative effort involving students, families, school teams, MNPS Security, Support Hub Staff, the Police Department, and the community. Each entity plays a role in enforcing rules, reporting threats, implementing safety procedures, providing training, and supporting students. Together, they work towards creating safe and secure schools.

There are, however, some roles within our schools that are more specifically dedicated towards safety.

School Resource Officers (SROs)

The MNPD budget includes 75 officers assigned to schools at the middle and high school levels, ensuring daily coverage. For several years, there have been vacancies requiring alternative assignment models to ensure coverage throughout the day. Chief Drake is committed to filling these vacancies following the graduation of a new class of police recruits to ensure SROs are present in all high schools and middle schools, while also ensuring the community police roles are fully staffed as well.

Safety
& Security Department

This department includes security officers responsible for monitoring and responding to safety-related incidents, as well as a 24/7 dispatch center. They work closely with law enforcement and other support staff. Security Officers are not school-based, but rather rotate throughout the district and would serve in a supportive role to law enforcement and school personnel in the case of an emergency.

Campus Support Staff

Placed throughout middle and high schools, campus support staff assist during drills, monitor safety plans, and respond to disciplinary or emergency situations.

Safety Ambassadors

Introduced starting this year in elementary schools, Safety Ambassadors receive extensive training on various safety scenarios, equipping them to address armed intruders and behavioral challenges. This program has been initiated with the aim of hiring dedicated personnel to ensure the safety of our youngest students.

Elementary Police Presence

The MNPD will provide police presence at elementary schools that provide visibility and help to prevent or respond to threats to school safety.

Emergency Preparedness and Response

Schools develop emergency operations plans in collaboration with assigned police officers, outlining procedures for various emergency scenarios. These plans include roles and responsibilities, contact information, emergency routes, relocation sites, and more. Regular drills and exercises are conducted to familiarize staff and students with appropriate responses and identify areas that require improvement. Clear communication channels and threat reporting systems are in place to ensure timely dissemination of information to relevant parties in case of emergencies.

Starting next year, an incident command drill and bus safety drill will be added to the portfolio of school drills pursuant to changes in state law.

Holistic Approach to Safety

While preventing armed intruders is a significant aspect of school safety, a holistic approach encompasses the day-to-day well-being of students and staff. The district has made efforts to address student behavior needs, promote restorative practices, and provide support systems:

Advocacy and Peace Centers

Advocacy centers have been established at elementary schools, while peace centers operate in middle and high schools. These centers focus on de-escalation techniques and restorative practices to foster a positive school environment.

Threat Assessment and Student Safety Plans

School and district-level threat assessment teams evaluate incidents or potential threats, taking appropriate action. Student safety plans are designed to prevent and minimize the recurrence of behavioral incidents based on individual circumstances.

Discipline and Code of Conduct

A robust disciplinary code of conduct outlines measures and levels of discipline necessary to maintain the safety of students and staff. It ensures that appropriate actions are taken when behavioral incidents occur.

Future Enhancements and Funding

Recognizing the need for continuous improvement, ongoing efforts are being made to further enhance school safety.

Brandished Weapon Detection

We are in the process of adding a new feature to our extensive security camera network that allows for an AI-generated brandished weapon detection system that includes monitoring and alerts to immediately notify us if there is someone on campus with a visible firearm.

MNPD Training for Staff: To ensure the effective implementation of safety plans and protocols, comprehensive training and professional development are provided to school staff and law enforcement personnel. Intruder training, administered by MNPD staff, will be offered to all school-based employees during their in-service week. This training aims to equip staff with the necessary knowledge and skills to respond effectively to emergency situations. This is in addition to the ongoing drills and practices that will occur at the school level based on the unique features and situations of those buildings.

Shatter-Resistant Film

To make it more difficult for individuals to gain access through glass, the installation of shatter
-resistant film is being planned for all schools. Estimated costs of approximately $5 million will cover materials and labor. MNPS will be seeking additional funding from local, state, or federal sources to cover the costs of this installation and ensure equitable coverage throughout the district.

Statewide Funding

In response to the Covenant School shooting, the Governor has announced $140 million in recurring funding for school resource officers statewide that law enforcement agencies must apply for. Additionally, there is $40 million statewide in one-time funding for security related grants similar to previous SAVE act grants that are applied for by school districts based on annual threat assessments done in collaboration with the MNPD. Both Metro Schools and MNPD intend to apply for these grants for the coming year.

Conclusion

Protecting our students and staff in educational environments is of paramount importance. Our school district has undertaken a comprehensive approach to ensure the safety of our schools through robust security measures, emergency preparedness, and continuous improvement initiatives. The collaborative efforts of various stakeholders, ongoing training programs, and funding commitments contribute to the realization of safer and more secure educational institutions. While challenges persist, we remain dedicated to maintaining the well-being and security of everyone within our school community.



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