Knox County Board of Education passes agreement between local law enforcement agencies

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The Knox County Board of Education voted Wednesday night to pass the Memorandum of Agreement between the board, Knox County Sheriff’s Office and Knoxville Police Department.

The board passed the document 7-2, after moving the item from the consent agenda to the regular agenda.

The MOA was also passed after board member Jennifer Owen moved to delay the vote for 30 days so changes could be made to the document.

The MOA is a guideline outlining the responsibilities and expectations of law enforcement in schools.

The Education Coalition, made up of local organizations, wanted the board to postpone the vote and hold public forums to clarify issues in the document.

Bob Thomas, Knox County Schools Superintendent, said the MOA had been a work in progress since 2017, and needed revisions.

Thomas said the first MOA was passed in 2009 and updated again in 2010, but hadn’t been revised since then.

He said several groups, including local organizations, worked hard to update the MOA and have it comply with all state laws.

Some concerns local groups wanted the MOA to include specific details as to how law enforcement officers stationed at the schools are trained to work with students, faculty, staff and parents.

The district’s chief security officer said his school security officers receive 9 weeks of specified training before stepping foot on a school campus, and receive additional training throughout the year.

He also said that law enforcement officers under the county or city are required to undergo even more training than the school security officers.

Some board members agreed that certain training details need to be more transparent, but believed the MOA was not the document to do so.

In the same meeting Wednesday night, the board approved a resolution discouraging the use of handcuffs on students pre-K through 5th grade in a 5-4 vote. Normal, Hill, Horn and McMillan dissented.

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