Lenoir City creates school safety task force

LENOIR CITY, Tenn. (WATE) - Lenoir City leaders are coming together to address school safety in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Florida.

Tony Aikens, the mayor of Lenoir City, put together a task force, a mix of educators, students and law enforcement, to discuss new strategies on preventing potential school threats.

"When the last school shooting happened down in Florida, I immediately met with the police chief and called the school superintendent and asked them what they thought about putting together a task force to look at our school system," Mayor Aikens said. "If there is a possibility out there, we want to prevent it from happening."

The panel invited two students from Lenoir City High School to participate in the discussion.

"Wanting to hear from students is the first step because we're the ones who are going to make the change," Kassie Welden, a student at Lenoir City High School, said. 

Lenoir City Police Chief Don White said a lot can be learned from those inside the classroom.

"I really want to hear their ideas," Chief White said. "They're there every day, and I think it's very important for us to listen to us and hear what they have to say. I want to hear their concerns and determine if there are deficiencies we didn't know we had?"

Chief White said recently a student wrote a threat on the wall of a Lenoir City bathroom. Police were able to work with the school to track down who wrote it and that teenager has since been suspended from school and criminally charged. Chief White encourages families and friends to report threats or unusual behavior to either the school or the police department.

"If someone feels like there's an individual that is troubled or if they see behavior that raises an eyebrow and they have some concerns, they should make that known," Chief White said. 

Some of the ideas pitched at the Friday discussion, including more active shooter training in schools, preventing students from propping doors open, fencing around schools, and more school resource officers. 

"I would like to see more security there at the school and it be a lot safer," Melissa Coons, a Lenoir City High School student, said. "I'm not saying that the security there is bad but it could be a lot better than what it is now."

The conversation does not stop here. Leaders plan to continue the discussion for years to come, so that they can be proactive in the fight against school violence.

"We need to proceed with this," Welden said. "We can't let it die down. We need to take action before another event happens. We need to prevent it from happening."

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