HAMBLEN COUNTY, Tenn. (WATE) — Hamblen County Sheriff’s Office has received a state grant to hire school resource officers in all 18 of their public schools.

This is the first time that all of Hamblen County Schools will have a school resource officer, which is not only a big deal for the school system, but also for the sheriff’s office.

“We received $75,000 per school that Governor [Bill] Lee put out for SROs. Hamblen County schools never had an SRO in every school and that’s what we’re seeking out to do,” Sheriff Chad Mullins said.

According to the sheriff, the grant will help cover salary, benefits, training, equipment and other related annual costs.

The Hamblen County Board of Education along with Morristown will help with costs not covered by the grant for the next two years.

While students are enjoying their last few days of summer, Hamblen County’s new school resource officers are familiarizing themselves with their schools.

Connie Gunzel and Kay Dunn are former teachers from other East Tennessee school systems but are now homeschooling their kids. They say school safety was a big reason they made the switch but are glad to see SROs are becoming a priority.

“They are not just security guards they’re there for a lot more for the students,” Gunzel said.

“As a parent, it would ease my heart, it would make me feel a little bit better, a little more secure knowing that it’s not totally on the teacher’s responsibility because teachers have so much on their plate, and to add security, that’s another set of eyes,” Dunn added.

The Hamblen County Superintendent Arnold Bunch sent WATE a statement:

“The safety of our students and staff is priority one!  We have a great partnership with local law enforcement and Sheriff Mullins’ efforts in the area of SROs is greatly appreciated. Hamblen County’s efforts coupled with the City of Morristown’s support and Governor Lee’s grant will free up additional funds to support educating Hamblen County students.”

“A lot of times, especially in the elementary schools and the middle schools. As an SRO that’s the first time they [students] get to visit with an officer and get comfortable with an officer in that nature,” Mullins said.

“We’re just there to make the children safe, someone they can talk to you and someone they feel comfortable with,” he added.

The first day back to school for students will be Thursday, Aug. 3. 

The sheriff’s office is looking for a few more SROs to fill the last few positions. Call the main line at (423) 586-3781 to find out who qualifies and how to apply.