Making students feel safe a top priority, Cash says - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Making students feel safe a top priority, Cash says

By Kontji Anthony - bio | email | Follow us on Twitter

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis City Schools Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash said Monday he still hopes to fulfill one of his top priorities: a promise to help make every student feel safe in class.

"That's one of the perceptions that hurts Memphis City Schools is that somehow it's dangerous and it's not safe for students," Cash said.

To do that, he said, he would like Memphis City Schools to develop its own in-house police force.  Right now, the security team is operated on a 50/50 basis by MCS and Memphis Police.  Cash believes one campus corps with standard police training would help the school system respond specifically to students' needs 24/7, to root out gang activity on campus, bullying and overall violence.

"We have a number of ongoing training that focus on child and adolescent development," he said.

Cash believes an in-house system would do more to keep students out of the justice system.  But, he said, it will require public input.

"We're going to need community forums, community discussions, television, radio and so forth to talk about this," he said.

If anything, Cash said, an in-house peace officer corps would cost less than the current hybrid security program because the new hires would come in at a more entry-level salary.

From day one, Cash's plan to develop an in-house police force has had varied reactions. Commissioners Dr. Jeff Warren and Reverend Kenneth Whalum, Junior have differing opinions on the plan.

"The superintendent is proposing that we fund a police force with real police officers with handcuffs, mace, a night stick and an automatic weapon on their hips," Whalum said Monday.

"All police officers have this now," Warren counters. "So, to act like this is going to be something different and all we have to really have to do is spank children is not realistic."

Currently, Memphis City Schools Security and Memphis Police share duties. Whalum says a campus police force would create the mindset of a police state.

"A principal can't paddle a child to correct behavior, but we can have our own police officers to just shoot the child," Whalum said.

Monday, Cash said the idea that the in-house peace officer corps would create a police state is far from his intentions.

"The more you befriend, the more you develop relationships where people trust you, they'll tell you who's doing what, when and how," he said.

Warren says a school police force simply takes security control out of the police department and puts it into the schools.

"We can direct them into appropriate interventions that don't necessarily involve the Juvenile Court system," he said.

Whalum believes there's an agenda.

"There is a solid number in support of whatever the superintendent says, whoever the superintendent is," he said.

Cash's plan, which was orginally included in the school district's budget for next year, was eventually withdrawn.  Cash said he only withdrew the vote to put the peace officer corps into next year's budget because the state legislature still has to approve his idea before the school board can even look at it.

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