How to Create a School District Safety Department from Scratch

Published: July 7, 2023Episode #79
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Many K-12 school districts are considering starting their own safety and security departments or expanding the departments they already have.

Campus Safety Voices, available on Spotify and Apple streaming platforms, features timely conversations on a wide range of topics affecting K-12 schools, institutions of higher education, and healthcare facilities.

Dr. James Corbin, who is student safety and security coordinator for Hamilton County Schools in Tennessee, was tasked with developing a safety department for his district. Not only did he do so from scratch, but he also grew his department to more than 60 employees in only three years. Additionally, almost all of his employees have stayed with the department… a remarkable feat considering the current tight labor market.

The idea to create a safety department came about because the local law enforcement agency assigned to protect the district was having difficulty recruiting school resource officers, and the school board wanted more safety and security personnel on its K-12 campuses.

At Corbin’s very first school board meeting, one of the board members suggested the district contract with a private security company.

“I said, ‘No. If we are going to do this, we need to do it ourselves and do it right,’” said Corbin.

The board agreed and adjourned a few minutes later. Corbin thought that because of his suggestion, he would lose his job, which he had only started four days earlier.

Instead, the district superintendent asked him to create the program that he had recommended.

Corbin began with eight employees, but, prompted by last year’s Robb Elementary School mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, quickly expanded that number after the district superintendent called for armed officers at each school is the district.

Corbin’s success in developing his district’s safety department is just one of the reasons why he’s been named one of this year’s Campus Safety K-12 Director of the Year finalists.

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Here’s my interview with James Corbin as well as the timestamps of what was specifically covered in the interview:

  • Corbin’s first steps in developing the Hamilton County Schools safety department, and how he determined what was needed, who was needed, and how many officers/staff members were needed: 1:31
  • What issues district stakeholders and the community specifically wanted the department to address and how he bridged the gap between the traditional law enforcement world and school safety world: 3:50
  • How he was able to recruit and retain so many employees in such a tight labor market: 5:18
  • What kind of training department armed officers receive: 6:34
  • Advice to other districts who want to develop or expand their safety departments: 9:24

Watch the full interview here or listen to it on the go on Apple or Spotify.

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