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School security officer recruits say they have no second thoughts about job

After a deadly shooting at Austin-East High School and a debate over whether security officers should be in school, 2021 recruits said they are ready for the job.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Recruits lined up on stage Thursday evening to take their final steps before taking on their roles as school security officers.

The ceremony recognized the Class of 2021, who joined the Knox County Schools Security Division after a 9-week training course. It also recognized recruits from the Class of 2020, whose ceremony was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Today is pretty much a big step towards a larger goal," said Tyler Hunley,  a member of the Class of 2021.

Even after a year of violence, when an Austin-East student was shot and killed in a bathroom and a debate over whether security officers belonged in schools, the recruits still decided to take on the job.

"I wanted a career that actually meant something," said Hunley. "I know there are people out there protecting my kids, and so I can defend other people's kids as well."

He also said that the controversy spurred him to join and protect kids.

The ceremony recognized 22 graduates in total, from both the Class of 2021 and the Class of 2020. Each officer is different, but many said they have similar motivations for entering the force.

"I think kids today especially need to see somebody who's on the good side of the law enforcement, as opposed to being on the bad side," said Alex Simerly, a member of the Class of 2021.

Some said protecting kids wasn't the only part of the job. Many also said being a school security officer was also about helping them as they navigate unique challenges.

"If I could make a difference in one kid's life, hopefully, they could help somebody else and then that person could help somebody else," said Hunley.

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