NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee governor Bill Lee signed an executive order Monday that directs “accountability measures” for school safety as well as a statewide evaluation of training amongst law enforcement and school districts.
“This is a first step,” Gov. Lee said Monday after signing the bill in Nashville. “As you know there are a lot of conversations happening across the country about (gun laws)… we’re not looking at gun restriction laws in my administration right now. We can only take steps and control what we can control.”
“We’re working on school safety,” Gov. Lee added later regarding another question about gun laws. The governor emphasized the school safety plan does not touch on gun restriction laws.
The highlights of the new executive order bring further focus on school building security and safety against an unauthorized intruder. While the state already conducts annual reviews for school safety, expanding in resources in 2019, the executive order comes nearly a few weeks after a deadly elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas that resulted in the death of at least 19 students and two teachers.
According to Gov. Lee’s office, Executive Order 97 also aims to establish additional resources to support parents, teachers, staff and agencies in improving school security practices.
“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,” Gov. Lee said 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.”
What’s in the executive order?
Executive Order 97 is broken down into three sections: For Parents, For Schools and for Law Enforcement; each section touches on plans, expectations and goals for increasing safety measures at schools in Tennessee. A July 1 deadline is also shared for updates to the state School Safety Plan Template for Local Education Agencies or LEAs to be published.
The executive order touches on the following in each section:
For Parents: School safety resources and engagement guide for effective advocacy; promotes partnerships between parents, families, and law enforcement for best practices and habits regarding school building security.
For Schools: Directs state agencies to provide more guidance for LEAs for added school security assessments; an increase in periodic audits of Tennessee local school security assessments and school safety plans; and give a set of practices for school leaders “to enhance building security and safety against an unauthorized intruder.” A full update on the state School Safety Plan Template for school districts or LEAs is slated to be published on July 1 which will give greater details.
For Law Enforcement: Directs the Department of Commerce & Insurance, through TLETA, to evaluate and assess law enforcement training standards and recommend expansions, improvements, or enhancements to existing training for active-shooter scenarios, and provide a report to the Governor, no later than July 1, 2022, with recommendations to expand its availability to local law enforcement agencies and related education stakeholders; also directs TDCI to review the use of armed security guards in non-public schools and, with the TN Department of Homeland Security, report to the Governor regarding the need for active-shooter training for armed guards.
When did Gov. Lee sign the executive order?
The governor held a media availability session Monday, June 6 in Nashville at 10:45 a.m. (EST) at the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the Tennessee State Capitol, where he signed the executive order and took questions. You can also view the full live stream of the event here.
How will my child’s school be affected?
For now, schools within Local Education Agencies or LEAs (school districts, essentially), will not be immediately affected; however, with the governor’s signature on the executive order, LEAs will have to undergo audits, as well as implement enhanced plans and best practices provided by the state.
Several state agencies will be participating in sharing guidance as well as requesting permission from the federal government for districts to use existing federal ESSER funds to conduct a fulsome, independent safety assessment, including the identification of necessary facility upgrades.
There will also be additional training and education materials specifically tailored toward school safety that all Tennessee educators, school leaders and staff will need to undergo by no later than Aug. 1.
“I’ve heard from many parents. Many parents with a great deal of concern,” Gov. Lee said. “You love your kids more than anyone. You are the best advocate for your children in this situation.”
The governor encouraged parents to download the SafeTN app.
“We can be vigilant and manage to protect the innocence of our kids,” Gov. Lee said.