NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — So far in 2021, Middle Tennessee has seen at least 10 reported instances of guns brought onto school grounds.
Last Thursday, a 16-year-old student at Hunters Lane High School was arrested for bringing a loaded gun on school grounds. That’s in addition to a shooting at a Memphis elementary school on the same day.
Educators say they face uncertainty every time they walk into their classrooms. Honey Hereth has been working at Metro Nashville Public Schools since 1999. She now works as a paraprofessional at Tulip Grove Elementary and is a member of the Service Employees International Union.
“The scary part is you never know what a child is going to bring to school,” Hereth said.
Over the last month, MNPS has seen at least four incidents of guns brought on to campuses, ranging from an elementary school student through high school. Also in September, three were taken into custody after shots were fired at a high school football game in Rutherford County.
“You always wonder when you get a child into the building why they’re so upset or amped up. And then when you have children bringing substances or guns to school you know that’s in their environment at home,” Hereth said.
It’s trouble at home that teachers are now left to deal with.
“This pandemic has really shown itself, the things that are going on at home that probably shouldn’t be going on at home and it’s spilling over into the building,” Hereth said. “There’s no amount of training that can prepare you for that because I’m not a psychologist. I’m not a psychiatrist. The best thing I can tell you: I’m an educator and a mom.”
Hereth believes there are steps that could be taken to improve the current environment, including more staff amid pandemic shortages and more livable wages.
“Just more wrap-around services,” Hereth said. “I cannot stress enough, you need more mental and emotional supports in all buildings.”
MNPS told News 2 in a statement they do have plans to add more mental health services for students.
“The district has made investments or is proposing to make investments in behavioral health and social-emotional learning that includes our advocacy centers in elementary schools, restorative practice assistants at the middle and high school level, as well as expanded social worker and counseling services at our schools.”
Some of the investments under consideration can be found in the district’s ESSER 3.0 application that is under review by the Tennessee Department Of Education.
In response to the gun brought to Hunters Lane High School, Director of Schools Dr. Adrienne Battle issued a statement to News 2 saying they are working with local authorities to cut down on the number of guns brought into schools. She also encouraged gun owners to keep their weapons secure.
“We continue to work closely with the Metro Nashville Police Department, Davidson County Juvenile Court and others on ways to keep guns out of schools before they have a chance to come in. Although we never want a gun coming through school doors, we’re pleased when staff members and even fellow students stay alert, do the right thing and report the presence of any weapon on campus before the situation can turn tragic. We encourage all gun owners to keep their guns and ammunition properly stored, locked and away from the hands of children.”