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"Safe Schools, Safe Students" Initiative Enhances Security

District, Law Enforcement Partners Announce 'Safe Schools, Safe Students' InitiativeDistrict, Law Enforcement Partners Announce 'Safe Schools, Safe Students' Initiative

On Friday, Aug. 5, Knox County Schools announced new security measures that are being implemented to enhance student safety in the 2022-23 academic year.

At a news conference, Superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk and Security Division Chief Jason Periard said KCS has launched the “Safe Schools, Safe Students” initiative, a series of actions designed to provide a safe learning environment for students and staff.

Dr. Rysewyk said KCS has asked the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Knoxville Police Department to provide an annual audit of the district’s safety plan and every school’s safety plan. The district will also take steps to increase its recruitment of military veterans as School Security Officers (SSOs).

Other steps include:

  • An anonymous tip line that will be monitored 7 days a week;
  • Upgraded body cameras for school security officers;
  • An integrated visitor screening system; and
  • Upgraded video surveillance capabilities throughout the district.

“Student safety is our most important responsibility, and I am very thankful that the Board of Education, Knox County Mayor Glenn Jacobs, and Knox County Commission approved $4.7 million in additional funding for school security this year,” said Dr. Rysewyk. “This is a crucial investment, and it highlights our determination to protect our schools against potential threats to students, staff and families.”

The additional funding will allow the district to add 22 positions to the Security Division, and KCS officials are working to recruit and retain outstanding SSOs. Dr. Rysewyk said the recently created Talent Acquisition team will focus on actively increasing the district’s recruitment of military veterans, and he is proposing an extension of paid military leave that would provide up to 30 days of military leave time for SSOs or other employees who are serving as reservists.

“We are working proactively to identify outstanding SSO candidates with a commitment to our educational mission,” said Periard. “As a Marine Corps veteran myself, I understand the capabilities that reservists and veterans bring to the security profession, and I am confident that we will continue to attract high-quality officers for these new positions.”

Dr. Rysewyk also announced that he has asked the Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Knoxville Police Department to provide an annual audit of the district’s school safety plan. Deputies and officers from those two agencies serve as School Resource Officers in many district schools, supplementing the work of SSOs.

“I have full confidence in the KCS Security Division’s planning capabilities,” Dr. Rysewyk said. “However, it is always wise to have a second set of eyes review important documents, and I am grateful for the support of KCSO and KPD in this regard.”

“It is a privilege for our deputies to provide additional support within district schools, and I am proud of the strong partnership we have built with the district,” said Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler. “We will continue working to make sure district schools provide a safe learning environment for all students and staff.”

“I have appreciated the chance to work with Dr. Rysewyk and Chief Periard over the last eight weeks, and our officers look forward to supporting the Safe Schools, Safe Students initiative,” said Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel. “We are eager to do our part in supporting the district’s goal of Success For Every Student.”

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