JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Johnson City Schools’ top safety official says the district is unlikely to benefit from the combined $140 million in new school safety and mental health funding announced by Gov. Bill Lee Monday.
“I think the main thrust of that additional funding is to try and catch up other districts,” Greg Wallace, who serves as the district’s supervisor of safety and mental health, told News Channel 11.
Wallace said the district already fulfills many of the requirements included in the governor’s comprehensive safety plan, including a threat assessment process and sharing school safety plans with local law enforcement.
“We’ve been ahead of the curve,” Wallace said of the school’s record on safety.
The district also keeps a dedicated School Resource Officer (SRO) at each school, as long as Johnson City police staffing allows the district to do so.
“Just this past week they were able to get us two additional officers back into the schools to help support us, so we currently have an officer at every school,” Wallace said.
The funding associated with the plan is tied to the approval of Gov. Lee’s amended 2023-24 budget proposal, including funding for a Homeland Security official in each of Tennessee’s county’s to assist local school districts on security issues.
Johnson City Superintendent Steve Barnett told News Channel 11 that an additional law enforcement partner would be appreciated.
“We work very closely with Johnson City police and when necessary with other agencies like the FBI and when necessary the TBI through the Johnson City police,” said Barnett. “I’m not really sure how (a Homeland Security officer) would help but it would be another agency that we would have contact with that would be close by.”
“It definitely would be a positive for Washington County and Johnson CIty,” said Barnett.
In addition to offering funding, Lee’s plan places more stringent requirements on schools.
If passed, the bill would empower law enforcement agencies to check exterior school doors to see if they are locked. If a school is found in violation more than twice in one year, they risk losing state funding.
Wallace said he welcomes the opportunity to have additional law enforcement on campus and isn’t worried about potential violations.