NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — Gov. Bill Lee on Monday announced an initiative to enhance school safety procedures after a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas left 19 elementary students and two teachers dead.
“Events of the last two weeks, particularly the events in Texas, have shocked our country, have caused anxiety and fear and grief and anger and have created an awareness that there are things that we should do,” Lee said at a press conference that began at 10:45 a.m. “And while there’s tremendous disagreement across this country about what those steps are, we all feel the need to take steps.
“We agree on one thing: that our schools should be a safe place that we want our kids and the teachers and the staff to know that they can go to school and come back safely.”
Lee signed Executive Order 97 at the conference. The order entails additional school safety resources for parents, partnerships between local school systems and law enforcement and an increase in school audits to ensure districts follow safety procedures.
The order will promote engagement among parents, school systems and law enforcement by launching the following efforts:
- Directing the Department of Commerce & Insurance to evaluate law enforcement training to recommend expansions or improvements to existing active-shooter protocols
- Reviewing the use of armed security guards in non-public schools
- Increasing law enforcement careers across the state
- Updates to the state School Safety Plan Template detailing deficiencies and solutions in school security along with district spending on building security and other safety initiatives
- Schools will receive guidance from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and other agencies to improve building security
- The Department of Education will request from the federal government for districts to use existing federal ESSER funds for safety assessments
- Creating a Schools Safety Resources and Engagement Guide for parents, which will walk them through how to advocate for safe conditions in schools and report “suspicious or concerning activity” using the SafeTN App
“Parents need to have full confidence that their children are safe at school, and thankfully, Tennessee has built a firm foundation with our practical approach to securing schools, recognizing crisis and providing confidential reporting of any suspicious activity,” stated Lee in a news release. “This order strengthens accountability and transparency around existing school safety planning and assures Tennessee parents that our efforts to protect students and teachers will continue.”
School safety planning includes ensuring schools have a single entrance and multiple exits, according to the release. The Department of Education’s request to use existing federal funding would allow officials to determine if any school buildings require facility upgrades.
Previously, Lee established a School Resource Officer grant program in 2019 that placed 213 new officers in public schools.