Protecting the safety of students, teachers and staff still remains the core of school resource officers after Rutherford County launched the first SRO program in Tennessee 29 years ago.
Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office and Rutherford County Schools partnered to add SROs at the county’s five high schools in 1993. Now, SROs serve all 50 County schools.
Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh said, “We are committed through our SRO program to protect your child while they are at school as well as administrators and teachers. We continually train and have the most highly skilled officers. I am proud of them and the service they offer to our school system.”
Schools Director Dr. James Sullivan said, “A welcoming environment is essential for a student to be successful. That welcoming environment has to have order, safety and structure. We value our partnership with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office, and we have multiple safe schools initiatives in place — including automatic door locks and limited access systems — and continue to implement methods to fine tune our safety procedures.”
SRO Capt. Brad Harrison has been an SRO 24 years and now leads over 60 SROs.
“We are really invested in the community and kids,” Harrison said of the SROs. “Safety plans continue to build and evolve through the years. We want to achieve the same goal, protecting our children, teachers and administration.”
SROs are certified, experienced law enforcement officers who are committed to protecting students, teachers and staff at every school. Many SROs served in the military and are SWAT team members.
SROs continue to help students stay current by holding regular safety drills with students throughout the school year.
SROs build relationships with students beginning in pre-K and kindergarten through graduation. They mentor students, teach classes, coach athletics and support school activities.
These relationships allow students to feel safe to share safety concerns with their SROs.
“If kids see something, they say something,” Harrison said, explaining the sharing of information alerts SROs who investigate threats as another way to protect school safety. “Most threats and issues are discovered and proactively addressed before they become an imminent threat to a school.”
RCS Safety Director Patty Oeser, a former longtime law enforcement officer, agreed.
“At the brink of a new school year as the Safety Director of Rutherford County Schools, I am proud of the collaborative effort we have with various law enforcement departments that are dedicated to the safety of our children and our schools alike,” Oeser said.
Photo: Sheriff Mike Fitzhugh speaks to SROs during classroom training before school starts Friday. The training included practical exercises.