MNPS to Start the School Year with Officers in Elementary Schools

Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake addresses press, Aug. 2, 2022

On Tuesday, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake announced that Metro Nashville Public Schools will see an increased police presence for the 2022-2023 school year, which begins Aug. 8. It will be the largest police presence the district has ever seen.

While middle and high schools already have school resource officers in place, additional “officers will be present and highly visible at all public elementary schools in an overtime capacity for several hours each day,” according to a release from MNPD. Schools will also be visited by on-duty police officers throughout the day.

“The May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, just days before the semester ended for our own Metro School students, shocked the conscience of Nashvillians and left us all in sheer disbelief,” said Chief Drake on Tuesday. “Very soon after the Uvalde tragedy, I directed that members of our police department, led by Deputy Chief Mike Alexander, begin meetings with MNPS leadership to develop plans for enhanced security measures.”

Increased police presence in elementary schools is a controversial topic. MNPS' plan is intended as a short-term solution to school security concerns — moving forward, the school district will hire part-time "safety ambassadors" for elementary schools. These employees will not be armed, but they will work with MNPD officers and the MNPS security department and have access to police radio communications. The district is reaching out to retired police officers to potentially fill these positions. Paying police officers overtime and hiring safety ambassadors is estimated to cost $5-6 million.

“Keeping sight of our staffing levels, our plan for the upcoming school year attempts to strike the right balance to enhance the safety of students and teachers with the greatest number of officers on campuses in our history, while at the same time protecting Nashville’s neighborhoods and businesses,” said Drake.

Comprehensive high schools will have two SROs, and magnet high schools will also see a police presence. Middle school will see rotating SROs throughout the day, and sixth through eighth graders will see “Drug Abuse Resistance Education and conflict resolution” programming from SROs.

“I’m grateful for Chief Drake’s willingness to dedicate MNPD resources to provide an extra layer of visibility and protection for our students through this partnership,” says MNPS Director of Schools Adrienne Battle. “Having an active-duty police officer on campus keeping an eye out for schools and providing a valuable point of contact for principals and administrators is going to go a long way in giving parents, staff and students a greater level of confidence in their safety.

Said Battle in an email sent out to parents on Tuesday: "I think this approach strikes an appropriate balance between the desire for added safety and security and the need to avoid the criminalization of childhood behavior that could come from using a policing response to incidents instead of a restorative approach."

Like what you read?

Click here to make a contribution to the Scene and support local journalism!