Members of the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association and the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police participated in the School Violence and Safety Summit co-sponsored by Tennessee’s local law enforcement leaders.
Rutherford Count Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh attended the seminar Thursday hosted by Williamson County Sheriff Dusty Rhoades.
Keynote speaker Michele Gay, mother of Josephine Gay who was killed on Dec.14, 2012 in the Sandy Hook School tragedy, is co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools. “We are excited to be in Tennessee and see the commitment and dedication of these law enforcement leaders as they address school violence and safety,” Gay said.
As a mother, educator and school safety leader through Safe and Sound Schools, she advocates improving safety and security in schools and communities across the United States. She cited “the importance of having first responders discussing school violence and safety is a tribute to their concern for the safety of children across the great state of Tennessee.”
Joining Gay was U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office Assistant Director Dr. Matthew Schiender and Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, the nation’s largest school resource officer association. During the summit, sheriffs and chiefs discussed the many challenges and threats to the safety of children in every community of Tennessee.
Sheriff Robert Bryan, TSA president, described the joint effort as “a first of its kind to talk about common sense approaches to address school violence and safety.” “Law enforcement is working to ensure that our public schools are safe for our children to learn and our teachers are dedicated to educating and protecting all children and together we can improve the safety of our children and address the violence that does occur in our schools,” Bryan said.
During the summit, the initial recommendations from Sheriffs and Chiefs included development of resources to appropriately respond to active shooters.
Bryan said, “In most cases active shooters are short term events, most often not lasting more than three to five minutes, so the first responders need to be prepared and not wait on tactical teams to deploy.” Another key finding is the need for state and local funding to support the training and equipping of local law enforcement to prepare for acts of violence against our children or other hazards that threaten their welfare.
TSA Executive Director Retired Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe said, “Local law enforcement agencies are the first responders to all violent acts in local communities and it is critical we demonstrate to the public we are deeply concerned about school violence and safety and taking steps to be better prepared to respond to all incidents. “In the next summit meetings will expand our collaborative efforts to determine best practices, needed resources and legislative actions needed to strengthen and prepare local law enforcement to appropriately respond to school violence and safety issues,” Bledsoe said.
Attending the first TSA/TACP School Violence and Safety Summit were 110 Sheriffs and Chiefs from across the state, representing a cross section of agencies, large, medium and small.
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