Executive Director of the Tennessee Firearms Association John Harris and Professional Educators of Tennessee CEO JC Bowman continue their in-studio discussion of school safety on Wednesday’s episode of The Tennessee Star Report with host Michael Patrick Leahy.
Michael Patrick Leahy: 6:18 a.m.; in-studio, John Harris, executive director of the Tennessee Firearms Association, and JC Bowman, the head of Professional Educators of Tennessee.
JC, we were talking during the break about a Police Chief Drake who made some – we’ve been discussing this – SRO controversy and Metro National Public Schools really didn’t want any of them.
And they’re throwing up all sorts of reasons not to have SROs, but Chief Drake – his comments of this have been surprisingly defeatist, shall we say.
He talked about, “Well, the reason we can’t put SROs in elementary schools right now is we don’t have enough officers and our high schools are so dangerous, we need to have multiple officers there.”
JC Bowman: I mean, what he used was the word “violent.”
He said they’re not even afraid of somebody with a sidearm with them. He said they’re not even afraid of the police.
He said, these kids are so violent, they’re not even afraid of the police – and if that doesn’t send chills, that ought to be the subject of every news story in Nashville.
That was absolutely staggering, what he said.
I mean, I get why you have to have two SROs, and let’s put this out there: female students are becoming violent at even a higher rate.
We’re seeing female students take the lead in exceeding their male counterparts. So you have to have a female SRO on staff because they can go into the bathroom, they can do things that a male can’t – follow them into these things.
And so you’ve got violent females – but he says this, and it’s like deaf ears. Other than Fox News Channel 17, I know of no other news program on television that’s covered the story.
Michael Patrick Leahy: So John Harris, when parents here are thinking about saying their kids to metro Nashville high schools because school’s back in session in a couple of weeks, right? Pretty soon.
Why would a parent send their child to a public high school here in Metro Nashville when the chief of police has said two SROs is not enough because these schools are so violent?
John Harris: You know, I think that’s an issue that, that has driven a lot of the desire in the state – for the lack of a better term – the voucher programs.
Where parents have the ability, when those are funded, to pull their students out and put them into another school environment.
You know, I was a Metro school student back in the 1960s, and like a lot of Davidson County kids, I got pulled out of public schools and put into private school.
As you know, back then, it was just forced busing. I was taken out of my local school and gonna be shipped across town. But it was, it was both a quality of education, but it was also to some extent just the environment that people were concerned about. And I think that’s increased today. My daughter is a public school teacher, and fortunately, she’s in a good school district and likes where she is.
But you know, she did some internships in Metro. I don’t think she would be a teacher if she had to teach in Metro.
Michael Patrick Leahy: Well, yeah. And by the way, teachers in Metro Nashville they’re trying hard in a very difficult system, and it’s not designed to help the teachers, is it, JC Bowman?
JC Bowman: No, and that’s why I’ve become so angry about it, so animated about it because what really has happened is I’m not just trying to protect kids. I really think that’s very critical. But I’m also trying to protect the adults in the building. And it seems to me, I mean, hear deaf silence from the MNEA, the teacher’s union here because they want to be on the side of the elitist people who do not want law enforcement.
Heidi Campbell comes out with the term “militarizing our schools.”
They do more than just police work, folks. They’re there to serve. They’re there to do a lot – to protect property. They’re there for a lot of reasons – protect lives.
And to me, the whole mentality that this has been expressed from leaders within Metro Schools and within some of these candidates for mayor who are, by the way, gonna not win – because I think people want their kids safe at the end of the day.
But I want the adults safe in the building: school cooks, janitors, I mean everybody else. And it seems to me that they really don’t care.
Michael Patrick Leahy: Well, let’s talk about that safety issue.
One of the findings from those that were looked at the problems associated with the safety surrounding Covenant School a lack thereof when on March 27th when 28-year-old Audrey Elizabeth Hale, who identified as a transgender male, entered the school by shooting through the glass door and just walking through there and then going ahead and killing six people there, including three, nine-year-old kids.
The reports subsequently show that if there had been a ballistic film on those glass doors probably would not have been able to shoot through. There are efforts now to get ballistic film in Metro Nashville. Where do we stand on that? Because for a long time the leadership metro in Nashville public schools opposed getting ballistic film on it.
But now, apparently, according to Fox 17, in a report from last month, they’re finally giving the green light on the ballistic film. But I don’t know if that’s been implemented. What, what’s the status of that, JC?
JC Bowman: They’re in the process of doing some of the schools, but here’s the thing. They have been dragged, kicking and screaming, to make their school safe.
It mind boggles me whether the money’s getting eaten up at central office.
You guys have done a great job documenting this. They’ve added nine chiefs making $190-something thousand dollars. We ran Sean Joseph out of town because they have four chiefs.
I mean, this is absolutely – we are administratively top heavy, and they justify their ends to that end, and the money – doesn’t get down there, and they’re not keeping our schools safe.
Michael Patrick Leahy: If we looked at the ballistic film in Metro Nashville Public Schools, now that the green light has happened, what percentage of Metro Nashville Public Schools today have ballistic film.
JC Bowman: I’d say maybe 30 percent, tops.
Michael Patrick Leahy: 30 percent tops. By the end of the year, how many will have it?
JC Bowman: Well, I think they’re saying probably 70 percent or so? I haven’t heard the number.
Michael Patrick Leahy: So there are gaps here in this. I mean, again, the money’s there. Why not implement this, like, yesterday?
This is like standard operating procedure today for safety, isn’t it, John Harris?
John Harris: Well, it is; and, and you know, it takes time to make infrastructure improvements.
I don’t know that ballistic film on windows is really gonna take that much time because you can apparently tint car windows like a drive-through at Sonic.
But it ought to happen pretty quickly. Some of the facts that are clear from across the country is the quickest way to minimize and reduce school injuries and school shootings from these third parties who come in is increasing the ability to have armed resistance.
Now, SROs can do that, but you’re gonna have one or two per building and they’re gonna be easy to pattern – to figure out who and where they are.
You know, schools like Covenant, we passed a law in Tennessee in 2016 that let a private school have their own security policies. A private school like Covenant could have made the decision “We’re gonna arm every teacher in the school,” or “We’re gonna allow every teacher in the building that wants to, to carry to protect themselves in their classrooms.”
Michael Patrick Leahy: And I think in the Covenant instance, there was one teacher who was armed and trained, but on that fateful day, He was on vacation.
John Harris: That’s right. I mean, you could, you could stop a lot of death and injury with the ability to respond with a firearm as opposed to an eraser, you know?
Michael Patrick Leahy: Exactly. Well, JC Bowman, any final thoughts here this morning with us?
JC Bowman: You know, we need to really take a hard look at what’s going on in Metro Schools, not just academically – and listen, I love those folks. They, the teachers there, are not the problem. And that’s where I come in. They are being put into an – and by the way, there’s like 900 openings right now.
I think they probably have gotten maybe down to 500 and by the time they start.
Michael Patrick Leahy: For teachers.
JC Bowman: But we’re gonna start the school year behind 300.
If I have a job in Wilson County or Robertson County, and I have a chance to teach in an environment that is safe, and I can actually do my job that I want to do. I’m gonna go there.
I’m not gonna come here where I’m not gonna be safe.
Michael Patrick Leahy: And on that note, JC Bowman, head of the Professional Educators of Tennessee, thanks so much for joining us today.
JC Bowman: Thank you; have a great day.
Michael Patrick Leahy: John Harris, you gonna stick around with us throughout the rest of the show?
John Harris: Yeah, I’ll be here.
Michael Patrick Leahy: Well, we’re delighted with that as well.
We’ll be back after this.
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Photo “John Drake” by Metro Nashville Police Department.