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Aiding School Security Occupies State Legislators on Capitol Hill

This information comes from 28th District State Rep. Joey Hensley, MD, R-Hohenwald, who represents Giles, Lewis, Maury and Marshall counties.

One week after the deadly attack on the Covenant School in Nashville, Republican lawmakers and Gov. Bill Lee announced actions to strengthen safety at public and private schools.

These measures include enhanced legislation and more than $200 million to place an armed security guard at every Tennessee public school, boost physical security at public and private schools and provide additional mental health resources.

School security has been a priority for lawmakers over recent years, with comprehensive legislation proposed that would strengthen 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 public and private schools in every Tennessee county.

Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Jim Bryson presented Gov. Lee’s amended budget proposal which included:

• $30 million to expand a statewide homeland security network with 122 agents serving students at 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 statewide.

The Senate Education Committee passed enhanced school safety legislation, Senate Bill 274, that would:

• Enact a multi-tiered accountability plan to require locking exterior doors of public and private schools while students are present, with opportunities for corrective action. State and local law enforcement will be authorized to check for unlocked doors.

• Require that private security guards are held to a high standard and receive active shooter training prior to being posted at Tennessee schools.

• Require 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.

• Require all newly-built schools to install classroom door locks and secure vestibules for visitor entry.

• Require the installation of a clear bullet-resistant or entry-resistant film on the glass panel of any exterior entry or basement-level window to prevent unallowed individuals from entering.

• Require camera systems to continuously monitor each entrance hallway and communal area.

• Requires school districts to share annual safety plans, floor plans and access to security systems with law enforcement.

Gov. Lee and the General Assembly are making great strides on school safety to approve these changes as we focus on solutions to mitigate tragedies.

There is nothing more important than the safety of our students , and we appreciate Gov. Lee for his work on this comprehensive school security plan and look forward to working on this proposal to provide safe learning environments for all students, regardless of where they go to school.

Strong security, which includes armed SROs, is imperative to ensuring the safety of students, teachers and staff and proposing a significant investment in school-based mental health liaisons to provide important services to those experiencing mental health crises.

All 1,807 Tennessee public schools are affected by this bill.

Zero tolerance for threatening school violence

The Senate passed Senate Bill 190, which expands what constitutes a zero-tolerance offense to include threatening mass violence on school property or at a school-related activity.

A violation would result in a student expelled from school for at least one calendar year. It would be up to the local director of schools or the head of a charter school to determine if the expelled student must attend an alternative school or virtual classes.

Other zero-tolerance offenses include bringing a firearm onto school property; committing aggravated assault or assault that results in bodily injury to a school employee; or is in unlawful possession of any drug, including any controlled substance, on school grounds or at a school-sponsored event. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

You may contact Sen. Hensley at 425 Rep. John Lewis Way N., Suite 742, Nashville ,TN., 37243, by calling 615-741-3100, or toll free 1-800-449-8366, ext. 1310, or fax 615-253-0231.

His district address is 855 Summertown Highway, Hohenwald, TN ., 38462; or call 931-796-2018. His cell phone is 931-212-8823, or E-mail: sen.joey.hensley@capitol.tn.gov

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