Shelby County Schools brings on former MPD director to review safety & security guidelines

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — One week after the school shooting at Cummings K-8 School, SCS officials met to talk about how to improve the district’s safety protocols.

Shelby County Schools is bringing in an expert a lot of people in Memphis know.

The district will be working with former Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong, who is also the Director of Security at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to study the district’s current safety and security protocols.

Superintendent Joris Ray said gun violence, especially among children, needs to stop. And last week’s shooting at Cummings is proof more must be done to put a stop to it.

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That’s why Dr. Ray announced Thursday that SCS is bringing in an outside source to help them improve the district’s existing protocols.

Once his review is complete, Armstrong will be tasked with developing and implementing any necessary training for staff.

Armstrong said he’s an SCS parent himself. He said when he was asked to take on a job that could potentially save the lives of children, he knew he had to take it on.

“That’s the only reason that I’m here, to make sure that we are doing absolutely every single thing that we can do to ensure our child’s safety. Schools are supposed to be institutions of learning. Our children shouldn’t have to go to school and worry about being victims of violence, especially as it relates to gun violence,” Armstrong said.

Armstrong served more than 25 years with the Memphis Police Department including five as the head of the department.

Superintendent Ray said Armstrong’s work will coexist alongside initiatives already underway in SCS that focus on the social-emotional health of students. Examples include conflict de-escalation and resolution, trauma-informed discipline, and restorative justice. Dr. Ray also said he intends to revisit plans for a Peace Force, school-based security officers who are District employees instead of school resource officers from the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office.

As a parent, last week’s shooting at Cummings School hit home for Posey Cochrane, a mother of two said.

“You can never be too safe,” she said. “Had a gun not been able to get into the school, then the kid wouldn’t have been in that situation,” Cochrane said.