Superintendent's Budget Calls For Police Officers In Elementary Schools

Apr 3, 2019

UPDATED 4 P.M.

CMS Superintendent Clayton Wilcox says school safety is his top priority and that’s reflected in his proposed budget for next year. Wilcox wants almost $22 million dollars to pay for more security cameras, fencing, panic cards for teachers and upgraded locks. 

On Charlotte Talks Wednesday, he talked about additional funding for other new safety measures he wants funded, that includes police officers for elementary schools.

Currently, police officers are assigned to all CMS high schools, middle schools and K-8 grade schools. In the 2016/2017 school year, 19 guns were confiscated on school grounds, three were found at elementary schools. Wilcox’s proposed budget for next school year includes funding to hire 25 police officers at elementary schools. Some school board members are against that recommendation. Wilcox says the officers would have duties beyond responding to violence.

“I think we’ve not done a good job of explaining that to our board members, we will at an upcoming budget workshop,” Wilcox said. “We have all kinds of issues at elementary schools, custody issues, issues happening at near elementary schools that require lockdowns. The other piece of that is often young people grow an irrational fear of police. Knowing police officers early can help.”

Wilcox says they wouldn’t necessarily stop school shootings, but believes they could reduce death and injuries if an incident happens. He doesn’t want that left up to teachers. Wilcox opposes legislation that would pay teachers extra to be trained to carry guns.

“I don’t think a teacher can be trained well enough to respond in that moment of tragedy,” Wilcox said. “I think the unintended consequences of putting a gun in a classroom that’s already volatile creates the possibility for a lethal confrontation between teacher and student. I could not embrace it and I hope my board would not embrace it.”

Wilcox says the new normal is that guns will be found on school campuses, which he says is sad. He is glad to see that with the exception of the fatal gun incident between two students at Butler High last fall, none of the 10 guns confiscated from students this school year were fired and students alerted officials to their presence.

After the Butler shooting, Wilcox said metal detectors would be reconsidered, but he says their use is still a big “if” for him. District officials have conducted 19 random weapons searches at schools. Pepper spray and Tasers were found, but so far, no guns. He is looking forward to the spring when they will begin using a dog purchased by the district that’s being trained to sniff out guns.

“This dog can smell gunpowder, it can smell cleaning solvents that are used around guns, it can smell a gun that’s been shot within the last couple of hours. That’s going to help us a lot because that dog can be released within a building and go through that building in a matter of moments so we don’t have to some of these traditional, more intrusive searches,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox’s security plans also call for additional emotional and mental health support for students. He wants nearly $6 million to hire 10 counselors, 27 social workers, 10 psychologists and eight people to oversee the support staff.

Posted 1 p.m.

CMS superintendent Clayton Wilcox is requesting almost $22 million in next year’s budget for more cameras, fencing, panic cards for teachers, and upgraded locks. Wilcox is also requesting funds to hire 25 police officers for elementary schools. Currently, officers are only stationed at high, middle, and k-8 schools. 

Superintendent Clayton Wilcox
Credit JENNIFER WORSHAM / WFAE FILE PHOTO

  

On WFAE’s Charlotte Talks, Wilcox said the additional officers would have duties beyond responding to violent incidents.

"We have all kinds of issues at elementary schools - custody issues, issues happening at, near elementary schools that require lockdowns. The other piece of that is often young people grow an irrational fear of police. Knowing police officers early can help. I know there are people who will say having an armed police officer there hasn’t stopped a shooting, but it may stop the carnage."

Wilcox also says the district has purchased a dog trained to sniff out guns in schools. He says the dog will be placed on patrol at randomly-selected schools beginning this spring.