KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Students at Knox County Schools are wrapping up their second week of classes, but for the men and women assigned to keep them safe, their work began months ago.

Like the rest of the country, Knox County Schools have become a melting pot of students moving from across the country and around the world.

“We’re getting families from all over the world,” said KCS’s Security Officer Scott Desautels.

A sentiment echoed by KCS Support Services Captain John Staser, “There didn’t use to be this much diversity in Knox County.”

According to State figures from the 2020-2021 school year, 17.1 percent of students in Knox County are African American, 11.3 percent are Hispanic and 3.1 percent are Asian. Along with that, the State figures note that almost eight percent of students are deemed to be “limited English proficient.”

“This training helps us communicate and just understand each other,” Scott Desautels said. “I think it’s very important for us as officers in schools to know our body of students. Where they are coming from, their community, their families.”

For the first time this summer, KCS Security Officers were offered the opportunity to take classes in Cultural Diversity Training.

“The foundation of being good security officers is understanding the folks that you’re serving. And that starts with understanding the differences that make up our amazing diversity,” KCSO Chief of School Security Jason Periard said. “We did some scenarios where my officers were faced with problems where the communications didn’t go right and the officers, in a team, had to come up with a way to use cultural competency to bridge understanding and de-escalate the situation.”

More Behind the Badge

For the security officers taking part, that’s the end goal. Learning better ways to open lines of communication by bridging gaps and building trust with the students they serve daily.  

“Everyone sees us as being the officer at the school but at the end of the day,” Staser said. “We are the person that wants to make the children feel safe.”