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BillsTo Improve School Safety Advance in State Senate

This information comes from the office of 28th District State Sen. Joey Hensley, MD, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles, Lewis and parts of Marshall, Maury and Williamson counties.

Several measures advanced to continue efforts to improve school safety across the state for public, private K-12 schools and higher education institutions. Those school safety bills are highlighted below.

School De-escalation Training – The Senate Education Committee advanced school safety legislation to require de-escalation training for teachers and administrators in Tennessee. "Senate Bill 1721, which I sponsored would ensure school personnel receive the training annually beginning in the 2024-25 academic year," according to Hensley.

A report last year from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office of Research and Education Accountability found that over the last 25 years, 43 percent of shootings that occurred at Tennessee schools were due to the escalation of a dispute.

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee and now awaits approval on the Senate floor.

Increasing Private School Safety - "Legislation which I sponsored is aimed at increasing safety at more private schools in Tennessee," according to Hensley.

State law only allows K-12 private schools to establish a handgun carry policy. Senate Bill 1708 allows a private school with students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade to adopt a handgun carry policy.

The bill passed out of the Senate Education Committee and now awaits final consideration on the Senate floor.

Public School Therapy Dog Pilot Program Proposed – A bill to create a therapy dog pilot program in Tennessee public schools advanced in the Senate.

"Senate Bill 1867, also known as the Beyond Ordinary Learning Opportunities Act, which I sponsored would require the Tennessee Department of Education (DOE) to create a one-year pilot program that would place a therapy dog in five public schools statewide," according to Hensley.

The pilot program would take place during the 2024-25 school year. The DOE would then submit a report to the General Assembly detailing the effectiveness of the program.

Therapy dogs in schools can improve students’ social well-being and reading skills and have other cognitive benefits, according to the Alliance of Therapy Dogs.

Senate Bill 1867 passed the Senate Education Committee and moves to the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee.

Healthcare Provider Advertising Law - "Legislation which I sponsored, to strengthen the standards for advertisements that include a healthcare practitioner’s name," according to Hensley.

The measure requires any advertisement that uses a healthcare practitioner’s name to prominently state the profession or license held by the practitioner.

It expands upon an existing law that requires providers to wear identification badges within their offices so that patients are informed of their provider’s information and credentials.

Additionally, the legislation prohibits an advertisement from portraying any deceptive or misleading information such as a physician claiming to be a specialist without having the required training in that specialty.

The Healthcare Provider Advertising Law passed the Senate Health and Welfare Committee and advances to the Senate floor for final approval.

Improving Student Safety On College Campuses - Legislation to ensure college students in Tennessee can protect themselves on campus without facing criminal charges advanced out of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"Senate Bill 1868, which I sponsored would clarify that it is not a crime for adults to carry certain non-lethal weapons in most buildings, recreation areas and other facilities on public college campuses," according to Hensley.

The bill specifies that non-lethal weapons include pepper spray, a pepper spray gun, pepper gel, mace, an electronic control device, a stun gun or other conducted energy device. The legislation awaits approval on the Senate floor.

Emergency Phones On College Campuses –  To enhance safety measures on college campuses, Tennessee higher education institutions have blue-light emergency phones, which connect callers directly to emergency services to further safeguard students by mandating all calls made from those emergency phones be recorded. Senate Bill 1784 passed out of the Senate State and Local Committee and awaits final passage on the Senate floor.

Increasing Availability Of Middle School CTE Courses –To provide more students with access to career development, legislation would expand the availability of  Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses for middle school students.

CTE class size maximums are set at an average of 20 and a maximum of 25 students.

Senate Bill 2764 would allow Local Education Agencies (LEAs) to expand CTE class size in grades 6-8 to an average of 30 and a maximum of 35 students.

This legislation passed out of the Senate and awaits final approval in the House of Representatives.

Sen. Hensley may be contacted at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville, TN, 37243 or by calling 615-741-3100, toll free 1-800-449-8366 extension 13100 or fax 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN., 38462. To reach him phone 931-796-2018 or his cell phone at 931-212-8823 or e-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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