Governor Lee, legislative leadership present strong school safety actions

 Governor Lee, legislative leadership present strong school safety actions

A week after the tragic shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally, Speaker Cameron Sexton, and legislative leadership announced additional actions to strengthen safety at public and private schools across Tennessee.

These measures include enhanced legislation and funding to place an armed security guard at every Tennessee public school, boost physical school security at public and private schools, and provide additional mental health resources for Tennesseans.

“There is nothing more important than our students safely returning home each day,” said Gov. Lee. “As Tennessee grieves the tragic loss of six precious lives in the Covenant shooting, we are taking additional actions to significantly boost safety measures at every school with highly-trained guards, physical security enhancements and mental health resources. I thank Lieutenant Governor McNally, Speaker Sexton and members of the General Assembly for their partnership as we pursue thoughtful, practical solutions to protect Tennessee students and teachers.”

At the beginning of the 2023 legislative session, Gov. Lee introduced a bill to strengthen physical security at every public school and enhance accountability in school safety protocol. Additionally, the Governor’s initial budget proposal included $30 million for 122 Homeland Security agents to serve students at both public and private schools in every Tennessee county. These school safety measures were highlighted in the Governor’s 2023 State of the State address in February.

Following the tragic Covenant shooting that took the lives of six Tennesseans, including three children, Gov. Lee and members of the Tennessee General Assembly coalesced around further action steps to strengthen school safety.

The Governor’s amended legislation and budget proposal will include the following measures:

Enhanced School Safety Legislation (HB322/SB274)

  • Enacts a multi-tiered accountability plan to ensure exterior school doors are locked while students are present, with opportunities for corrective action. State and local law enforcement will be authorized to check for unlocked doors
  • Requires that private security guards are held to a high standard and receive active shooter training prior to being posted at Tennessee schools
  • Requires every school district to establish threat assessment teams, a nationally recognized best practice to ensure students are connected to support services and behavioral health professionals, when appropriate
  • Requires every public and private school to develop annual safety plans, which must include a newly required incident command drill for school leaders and law enforcement to prepare for what to expect in various emergencies

FY23-24 Budget Proposal:

  • $30 million to expand a statewide homeland security network with 122 agents serving students at both public and private schools
  • $140 million to establish a School Resource Officer (SRO) grant fund to place a trained, armed security guard at every public school
  • $20 million for public school security upgrades
  • $7 million for private school security upgrades
  • $8 million for additional school-based behavioral health liaisons across the state

Since 2019, Gov. Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly have prioritized investments in school safety every year.

In June 2021, the Governor signed Executive Order 97 and launched a statewide effort to enhance school safety by boosting collaboration among parents, schools, and local law enforcement across the state.