NASHVILLE — Tennessee Governor Bill Lee has proposed a $40 million investment to improve school safety in the Volunteer State, with an emphasis on placing law enforcement officers in more schools.
The governor made the announcement Thursday afternoon, saying the project was intended to better protect teachers and students and prepare against the threat of violence.
“The safety of our children and teachers is a top priority for my administration, and this investment ensures that school districts will have the resources they need to better protect our schools.”
The governor’s office said that approximately 500 Tennessee schools do not currently have school resource officers — trained law enforcement officers who are assigned to the school. Proposed changes to current state law will enable those schools to fill those positions, Lee’s office said. The proposal accommodates underserved counties — like Scott County — by adjusting limited match requirements to be proportional to school districts’ financial capability, Laine Arnold, the governor’s press secretary, said.
The new plan also enables schools that currently have an SRO to pursue grants to fund other safety priorities — such as implementing building security measures and developing innovating violence prevention programs.
“Several members of the legislature have begun working on school safety measures,” Lee said. “We commend their efforts and look forward to working together to protect our students and teachers.”
Both the Scott County School System and Oneida Special School District began implementing additional security protocols after the February 14, 2018 mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla. high school. Building security has been improved at both Oneida High School and Scott High School, with increased SRO presence at both schools.
Lee said his proposal would go beyond the funding of SROs and brick-and-mortar improvements by encouraging school systems to identify students who could potentially become a threat.
“While we are providing resources for additional security measures for our schools, districts need to also consider programming that identifies students who are in need of intervention,” the governor said. “Security is paramount, but we must also double down on efforts to identify harmful situations before they arise.”