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Memphis-Shelby County Schools chief of safety and security will retire at the end of the month

Two men wearing suits pose with a certificate at a retirement party

Memphis-Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray (left) poses with Gerald Darling, the district’s retiring chief of safety and security, at a recent ceremony honoring Darling’s service to the district.

Courtesy of Shelby County Schools

After more than a decade serving as the chief of safety and security at Tennessee’s largest school district, Gerald Darling will retire at the end of the month.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools announced Darling’s retirement, effective Jan. 31, in a Friday afternoon press release. Superintendent Joris Ray hailed Darling, calling him “instrumental in the reduction of major incidents in our schools.” 

“We’re extremely grateful for his commitment to safety on behalf of our students and staff,” Ray said in the release. “He has devoted much of his life to service, and we send him well wishes and fulfillment on his retirement and next chapter.” 

The announcement of Darling’s retirement comes just months after the district announced that former Memphis Police Chief Toney Armstrong would help the district review its security measures after a shooting at Cummings K-8 Optional School rocked the community and left a 13-year-old boy injured, and another student arrested. The injured boy has since made a full recovery, and the other pleaded guilty to first-degree attempted murder.

Memphis-Shelby County Schools has faced other safety and security challenges in recent months. Last week, the owner of Balmoral Shopping Center filed a $5 million lawsuit against the district and the city, claiming officials have not done enough to address student loitering and violence spilling over from the nearby Ridgeway High School. 

In addition, a photo showing a person carrying a gun at Melrose High School circulated recently. In a statement, a district spokesperson said they were aware of several unauthorized visitors at Melrose after hours last week, but that no one was harmed and there was no damage to school property. The person in the photos left school grounds before local law enforcement arrived.

“Please be assured that additional security measures were immediately put in place as we continue to prioritize safety for our students and staff,” the district said in a statement.

Darling joined MSCS 13 years ago, after 28 years of diverse law enforcement experience, including four years as chief of police for the Miami-Dade School District. Under his leadership, Miami-Dade was commended for addressing the disproportionate arrest rate of Black and brown youth in the district. 

Also during his tenure at Miami-Dade, Darling’s effort to develop and implement the Civil Citation program was recognized as a national model by the White House in 2008. The goal of the program is to divert first-time, low-level juvenile offenders away from the juvenile justice system. In addition, Darling was credited with establishing a countywide gang task force.

Darling gained recognition for his work in Memphis, too. The School Safety Advocacy Council awarded the district’s Security Services Division the Exemplary Schools Safety Award in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2017. Along with the city, Memphis-Shelby County Schools was selected as one of only six entities to participate in the Department of Justice National Forum on youth violence crime reduction.

The district also lauded Darling as one of the few police chiefs who attended and earned a certificate from the Harvard University School of Educational Leadership. 

After Darling leaves, day-to-day operations of the district’s safety and security office will be led by Carolyn Jackson, who currently serves as the department’s executive director. The district has not named a replacement, nor announced a search for one.

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