Sheriff: Only high schools will have school resource officers this year
Published 12:36 pm Thursday, July 28, 2022
Carter County Schools will not have school resource officers at every campus when school begins later this month.
Sheriff Dexter Lunceford said Thursday he was forced to cancel the contract to provide resource officers due to a lack of staffing.
“I am not going to renew the contract with the school system,” he said. “We don’t have the manpower to do it.”
In previous years, Lunceford said Carter County Schools contracted with his department to provide a minimum of 10 school resource officers during the school year. The district has 14 campuses.
“At one time, we were able to provide an SRO at each school,” he said. “But right now, I’ve only got eight resource officers and I’m having to take four of those to work on patrol.”
Lunceford said his department is understaffed by nearly one-third. “Right now we are 45 employees short, and within the week will we lose three or four more,” he said.
Lunceford has criticized the Carter County Commission for failing to approve his request for additional funding to increase salaries in the sheriff’s department in an attempt to recruit and retain staffing.
“I told them two years ago,” he said, adding that a lack of staffing is also behind issues that could lead to decertification of the jail.
Instead of a contract to provide 10 SRO, Lunceford said his department will provide four resources officers — one at each Cloudland, Hampton, Happy Valley and Unaka high schools.
“The patrol officers assigned to those zones will go by periodically and check on the other schools,” he said.
School resource officers are not required on campuses, but law does require than any individual who serves as an SRO must be a licensed and certified law enforcement officer.
In a statement released Thursday, Director of Schools Dr. Brandon Carpenter shared the following message regarding school safety:
“Carter County Schools will continue to prioritize the safety of students, faculty, and staff. In cooperation with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department, Elizabethton City Police Department, and Tennessee Highway Patrol, our school system has strengthened internal procedures and security measures to maximize resources to ensure a safe and secure learning environment for all. As always, we ask the community to be a strong part of the team by driving cautiously through school zones, watching for school bus stops, and providing us with any information that pertains to the well-being of our schools and communities. Together, we will protect Carter County’s most precious resource, our children!”
We will continue to update this story as information is made available.