NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Gov. Bill Lee has signed new legislation into that law that focuses on strengthening safety at schools in Tennessee.
The governor introduced the school safety plan at the beginning of the 2023 legislative session to strengthen physical security at every public school and enhance accountability in school safety protocols.
Following the Covenant School shooting, Lee announced a new budget amendment that added funding for school security, including $140 million for public schools to hire school resource officers (SROs) and highly-trained guards, a new grant fund for both public and non-public schools, and increased mental health funding.
The legislation invests more than $230 million into public and private schools aimed to increase safety. The governor’s office released a price breakdown of how the funds will be allocated.
$230 million Strong School Safety funding in Tennessee:
- $30 million will go toward more than 100 Homeland Security agents to serve students across all 95 counties.
- $140 million for one full-time SRO for every public school
- $40 million toward public security upgrades
- $14 million for private school upgrades
- $8 million for additional school-based behavioral health liaisons across the state
In addition to funding, the legislation also lists steps schools will need to follow to ensure they are enacting safety protocols.
According to the legislation, schools are required to have an accountability plan to ensure exterior doors are locked while students are present, have private security guards receive active shooter training, require every school district to establish threat assessment teams to ensure students are connected to support services and behavioral health professionals and require every public and private school develop annual safety plans.
Lee said school safety is a priority and the new legislation will ensure Tennessee students and teachers return home from school safely each day.
“Nothing is more important than Tennessee students and teachers returning home from school safely each day,” the governor stated. “Every year since 2019, we’ve worked with the General Assembly to prioritize school safety, and this year, we’ve passed significant measures to fund an armed SRO for every public school, enhance mental health support and boost physical security at public and private schools across Tennessee.”