School officials in Unicoi County made the right call in working with the Unicoi County Sheriff’s Department to devise a plan to protect the safety of students there in face of severe budget cuts. The two parties could have easily thrown up their hands and blamed the state for the predicament, but instead they went about finding a solution to the problem.
As Press Erwin Bureau Chief Brad Hicks reported in Tuesday’s paper, a decrease in state funding for the Safe Schools program forced the elimination of two of the three school resource officers the sheriff’s department has deployed in Unicoi County schools.
This was unacceptable to school and law enforcement officials in Unicoi County, who have worked out a plan with the Erwin Police Department to keep a watch on schools.
School resource officers are often the first and only line of defense when it comes to dealing with danger on campus. That was certainly the case in 2010 when Sullivan Central High School’s resource officer stood between the school’s principal and a man who entered the school waving a handgun. That same resource officer, Sullivan County Sheriff’s Deputy Carolyn Gudger, also helped the principal escape to safety before other responding deputies shot and killed 62-year-old Richard Cowan of Kingsport.
Whether they are walking the hallways of the local high school or riding a county school bus, these resource officers are helping to keep our children safe. It’s often tempting during tough budget times for elected officials to consider cutting these positions. That would be a mistake.
That’s why we are pleased to see officials in Unicoi County taking the necessary steps to see that SROs remain on the beat there.