FRANKLIN, Tenn. (WKRN) — Williamson County Sheriff Dusty Rhoades says his county has been a leader in school safety for years with school resource officers in every school and security measures in place that other districts are now implementing.
“I feel reasonably certain that we’ve covered all the bases,” he said.
Sheriff Rhoades says in the wake of the Covenant School shooting, his team has been staying vigilant but not changing how they protect kids in Williamson County.
“It’s nice putting everybody on a heightened alert,” he said. “We hope we never have to experience it. But when I say we’re out in front of it, we’re doing everything we can to keep the schools as safe as possible.”
He explained that while other districts like Metro Nashville Schools are installing shatter-resistant glass film to their doors and windows, schools in his county have had them for a few years.
Rhoades went on to explain a crucial part of their security strategy is monitoring for potential threats both in the classroom and online.
“We study the internet, and the Facebook and all that stuff…we can’t respond to something that we don’t know anything about,” Sheriff Rhoades said.
Creating relationships with students so they are aware of potential threats before they happen is seen as a priority for school resource officers in Williamson County.
“As long as the SRO is doing what they supposed to do, the kids will be more than comfortable to come to them and share information that is needed, especially if they’re in danger, or only their friends are in danger,” explained SRO division commander Leonardo Zollicoffer.
However, Zollicoffer explained building that level of trust doesn’t just come from standing in the hallway, it comes from knowing each student as if they were their own.
“Awareness is, one kid is on top of the world one day and then next thing you know, they’re at the bottom and you have to go and try and investigate and figure out what happened,” Zollicoffer said.
Franklin Special Schools say they meet weekly with law enforcement officials in the county as well as Williamson County Schools regarding safety.
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“I think the relationships that we have with our sheriff’s office, with all of our local police agencies, with emergency management, with all the mental health agencies is like none other,” said Celby Glass with the Franklin Special School District Office of School Safety.
She said that while threats are their biggest concern, their efforts go past just neutralizing any potential threat.
“If we get notified about a threat, then it’s all hands-on deck. And we’re also trying to take care of the student that made the threat to make sure they have the services that they need,” she said.
Because, she said, their community doesn’t just take a threat as a threat, but as a cry for help.