It’s every parent’s worst nightmare and school shootings like Wednesday’s in Florida are becoming too familiar.
It’s a heartbreaking reality for Randy Cutshaw, who’s been a school resource officer for Cocke County High School for 17 years. The possibility of a school shooting is constantly on his mind.
“When we leave the house we do not actually think about dying. We think about saving lives,” said Cutshaw.
They now wear bulletproof vests to work and go through a weeklong active shooter course to prepare.
“When we were in school, we did not have officers in school. Now they have officers in school. We have three here in Cocke County and we all carry AR-15s,” Cutshaw said.
These changes in schools started happening after the Columbine massacre. Phil Keith, the Knoxville police chief at the time, says it was a wake up call for everyone.
“In the 90s, every school was assessed individually, so there was a unique plan for each school,” said Keith.
The department even developed a special unit to gather intelligence on suspicious students or teachers who had problems or were involved in things like bullying or fighting, which Keith says can be precursors to shooting episodes.
Knoxville police began training over 100 different school systems on prevention. It’s never something law enforcement wants to respond to, but they feel they need to be prepared.
“We have to assess what’s going on, where the shooter is, call for backup,” said Cutshaw.
He’s doing the best he can to make sure this doesn’t happen at his school and the kids go home safe.
“I worry about their lives. I want to save them. I want them to live their life,” he said.