In the wake of a shooting at a South Florida high school that claimed the lives of 17 students, Auburn Ward 8 Councilman Tommy Dawson echoed the concerns of many communities across the United States on Tuesday night: we need to protect students.
Voices across the nation have been crying out for more safety precautions since school shootings have become more commonplace in the U.S. in different ways. Some have called for school policy changes, increased regulations on firearms or informational training.
Dawson, who worked for the Auburn Police Division for 26 years, including a three-year stint as police chief, proposed that the city looks into strategically placing officers in each of the schools in the Auburn public school system.
At the council's regular meeting Tuesday night, the former police chief said that due to the size and need of the Auburn City Schools, he would suggest having one officer per elementary school, four to six in each of the middle schools and a minimum of six at Auburn High School.
“Our children are our most precious commodity,” he said. “I cannot imagine what these parents are going through. I definitely don’t want that to happen here in Auburn, and I would feel guilty if I did not do all that I could do.”
He cited his experience on the force as a driving factor behind the need to institute a police presence at each of the schools within the Auburn system.
He said that not only would it bring about a feeling of security, but officers could be role models for the students. In the elementary schools, he said, having an officer presence could inspire the students, improve officer relations and perhaps even prevent criminality in the student’s future.
In speaking with The Plainsman after the meeting’s adjournment, he noted each City Council meeting featured a security detail, something that most of the city’s schools lack.
The Auburn City Schools operates as a K-12 program with more than 8,000 students on the 12 campuses throughout the city. There are nine elementary schools, four kindergarten through second-grade schools, four third grade through fifth-grade schools, one sixth-grade school, one middle school, one junior high and one high school.
The sessions were held with the purpose of making sure students were informed about what to look for in an active shooter situation, how to stay safe and how to act calmly but proactively in an emergency situation.
Situational awareness and education are some of the most important things to have in times of emergency, Dawson said.
“If you’re thinking about it, you’ll know what to do,” he said. “It’s something we sit around and talk about too much. We need to actually get something done.”
Dawson will soon begin pushing for evaluations of the current resources and to get officers in the schools sooner rather than later.
The proposal will be brought before the current police chief, Paul Register.