Clarksville Mayor Ann Rushing

CLARKSVILLE — The Clarksville City Council has agreed to help fund a student resource officer for the local school district, despite opposition from council members who said Clarksville ISD should pay for the position entirely.

The proposed interlocal agreement between the City of Clarksville and Clarksville ISD, which still needs school district approval, means Clarksville will pay $7,851.17 of the officer’s salary. The officer also would be a Clarksville Police Department officer, Mayor Ann Rushing said. City Manager Julie Arrington said Clarksville ISD would pay for the officer’s training and would reimburse the city for roughly $36,000 per year.

Some councilors, including Councilman W.F. “Babe” Higgins, said the school system should pay for the position itself.

“I said the same thing last year, and I voted against it last year — I believe the schools should have their own SRO officer, as other schools in our area do,” he said.

Councilman Charlie Wright proposed paying a portion of the officer’s salary, with the added stipulation they make it clear to Clarksville ISD this would be the last year the city helps pay for the position.

“Someone has to support them,” he said.

“We told them the same thing last year,” Councilman Heath Humphrey said. “We got burned.”

Rushing said it’s now too late for Clarksville ISD to hire its own officer, as they will only have a matter of weeks to complete training, and the school district wouldn’t be able to hire someone itself before the beginning of the upcoming school year.

“That’s not my fault,” Higgins said in response. “They should’ve been planning for this all along. They did the same thing to us last year, y’all. They put us right down to the wire and said ‘We can’t do this because.’”

“What’ve they been doing from March of last year to July of this year?” Humphrey asked. “I sat in this same chair last year and had this same conversation.”

Councilwoman Juanita Moore supported Wright’s proposal, saying it’s for the safety of the children.

“I think we should do one more year, because like I said, we’ve got to protect our kids,” she said. “If I could, where my grandbaby is, they’d have security because we have to look out for our kids.”

“Well, you need to go to the school board and tell them that,” Humphrey told Moore.

Ultimately, Councilman Charlie Malone made a motion to approve the contract, with the stipulation that it be terminated after one year, at which point Clarksville ISD will be responsible for paying for its own officer.

The motion passed 5-3, with Higgins, Humphrey and Councilman James Ellis casting dissenting votes.

“This is our school system, and having an SRO benefits the whole community,” Rushing said after the meeting.

Tommy Culkin is a staff writer for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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