(Memphis) The interim Superintendent of Shelby County Schools and Memphis Police Director met Saturday to discuss police response to incidents inside local public schools.
After a gun went off inside an elementary school, we learned the two had never spoken about police response inside schools.
A news release from interim Superintendent Dorsey Hopson said, ” It was a very productive meeting. We both agreed that our highest priority is to work together to ensure that all of our students are safe in our schools. We began to talk about what changes are needed. Following our conversation, I also spoke with Shelby County Sheriff Bill Oldham and, like Director Armstrong, he continues to be committed to making sure that every school in the entire country has the highest level of safety and security possible. Each of us has instructed our staffs to review policies and procedures, in light of events of the first three weeks of this school year, and we intend to implement any necessary changes as soon as possible.”
Hopson called a press conference Friday afternoon, claiming MPD dropped the ball after a gun discharged at Westside Elementary school Thursday afternoon.
“The phone call was made to MPD in a matter of minutes. The report was that a gun was in school. They didn’t respond. I think it’s important for the public to know that the MPD has taken a position that says the schools are now county buildings, that they are not going to respond to them,” said Hopson.
Director Armstrong fired back a few hours later calling a press conference, saying he and Hopson had not once spoken.
“They were unsure if the gun was a BB gun or a cap gun. At the time of this call, all of our officers were dispatched on other calls and no one was able to clear to make this call,” Armstrong said about why his officers didn’t respond immediately.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Office is set to take over safety in all SCS schools in December.
The district also pays Gerald Darling $275,000 a year, more than Armstrong earns, to oversee school security.
School board members are hoping a rift between Hopson and Armstrong is mending.
“I say it’s a state of emergency. I say it’s time for somebody to step in and do something,” said school board member Kenneth Whalum.
“I am much more concerned with the 6 or 7 other incidents that Superintendent Hopson mentioned than I am about the communications snafu,” said Whalum.
“We don’t want this type of wake up calls. Surely we don’t want to see any kid bringing a gun in the school, but all it takes is one of those incidents for us to start being Monday morning quarterbacks talking about what we should’ve done,” said school board member Kevin Woods.
Both Whalum and Woods felt that the metal detectors and wands placed in elementary schools is a step in the right direction.
“The principal will have great discretion on when and how to use those,” said Woods.
Hopson, Oldham and Armstrong plan on occasionally meeting throughout the school year.