July 16, 2019. WATE

Several community groups have requested a public forum to discuss an agreement soon to be made between the Knox County School district and the local law enforcement agencies.

The agreement mentioned is the Memorandum of Agreement by and between the Knox County Board of Education, Knoxville Police Department and Knox County Sheriff’s Office, which addresses the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement agencies at the schools.

“The draft Memorandum of Agreement has been developed largely behind closed doors and without meaningful opportunity for questions, comments or input from the public,” according to the release sent by the Education Coalition.

The groups want the school board to postpone its vote on the adoption of the proposed agreement, which is scheduled for Wednesday night.

The groups also requested that the Knox County School district superintendent to facilitate public forums and allow concerned parties to seek clarification on issues in the agreement.

The groups requesting the public forum include:

  • Allies if Knoxville’s Immigration Neighbors
  • Justice Knox
  • Knoxville Branch of the National Association of Colored People
  • Knox County Education Association
  • Kindred Futures
  • Latino Student Success Coalition
  • League of Women Voters of Knoxville and Knox County
  • Stop School Push Out
  • Students Parents and Educators Across Knox County
  • What’s the Big I.D.E.A.?

Rev. Dr. John Butler, president of the Knoxville National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said the Education Coalition had been working with the school district for at least a year on the memorandum.

Butler said though, that members of the coalition barely had time to thoroughly read the memorandum and write down concerns from when the document was made public to when the school board would vote.

The following are some of the concerns the Education Coalition raised:

  • Training of School Security Officers and assigned Law Enforcement Officers: The public needs to be informed about the specific training that will be provided to law enforcement officers serving in the schools system. Our law enforcement agencies are an important part of our community and we appreciate the work they are committed to do. This Memorandum of Agreement (Agreement or MOA) is an opportunity to inform our parents, students and community about how the School System and our City and County law enforcement are working together, and how potential conflicts in policies will be addressed. As written the Agreement allows police officers to serve in our schools up to a full year before being trained. No officer should serve around our school children until they are fully trained.
  • It is not clear whether the proposed MOA is consistent with recent changes to Tennessee Juvenile Law provisions. For example, Tennessee Code Annotated provision 37-1-120 (e ) makes special provisions for students receiving special education services; 37-1-120 (f) limits school personnel juvenile petitions to certain circumstances. Shouldn’t these provisions be referenced? Have those changes been discussed and considered in the development of this MOA?
  • Section II.A.3 is unclear regarding the mandate to “share appropriate information to law enforcement as allowed by existing local, state and federal law and work diligently to be certain that communication is accurate and timely.” If school policies on crisis intervention or restorative practices are functioning and productive, what would be the purpose of requiring reporting to and involvement of law enforcement officials?

WATE has reached out to the Knox County School district for comment about the request for a vote postponement.

The spokesperson said a statement may be available on Wednesday.

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