CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (WDEF) – As we begin a new school year in Hamilton County, we asked you what your main concerns were heading into this school year.
It is clear from the results that school safety along with bullying were two of the primary concerns parents have heading into this year.
One parent, Tamisha Hawkins, said, “Bullying has become really bad, especially for my children, like I don’t know why but people should teach their kids not to bully others.”
On the level with bullying is school security, as the Covenant School shooting weighs on the minds of everyone heading back to class.
Hamilton County Schools say they have 79 officers in schools, 52 of those school security officers.
25 come from the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and two come from the Chattanooga Police Department.
They also mention more resources are on the way from the State from Governor Bill Lee’s actions after the Covenant Shooting.
The Chief of Equity and Advocacy, Dr. Marsha Drake, said, “He has made monies available for us and so we are developing our plan to submit to the state for those funds.”
For many, the issue of school safety is not a policy one, but a very, very personal one as is it is for Natalie Hammond.
Hammond was a teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut on 20-12 when a gunman killed 26 people inside of her school and wounded her.
Wednesday afternoon, she was the keynote speaker at the Shields Up Safety Summit at the Medal of Honor Heritage Center, sharing what she’s learned since that massacre.
Hammond said, “We talk a lot about not just hardening buildings and putting physical things in place.”
She says it’s important to balance school security with providing a welcoming educational environment.
Hammond said, “We’re now not just saying, let’s do x,y, and z to our building. I’m an elementary principal. I don’t want my building to feel like that for them, I want it to feel like an elementary school.”
She says the conversations have trickled down to her students.
Hammond said, “I don’t believe I’ve seen an increase in anxiety. I think there is an awareness, which I think is wonderful. I think being situationally aware is important.”
That awareness is being echoed by Hamilton County Schools.
Dr. Drake said, “Know that we have trained staff in our building to help navigate through any issues and problems that arise.”