Dept. of Education teams up with Homeland Security, focusing on school safety

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Active shooter drills are known by today's students all too well. A new initiative though hopes to stop these threats, outside the doors.

Active shooter drills are known by today’s students all too well. A new initiative through hopes to stop these threats outside the doors. 

“Historically safety has been a priority in this state,” said Mike Herrmann, Executive Director with the Office of School Safety and Transportation. “But you can never do enough.”

The department of Education, teaming up with Homeland Security, are tackling safety needs school by school. 

“We established physical security protocols that each of the schools across the state, public schools across the state, would be required to meet,” said Brice Allen, with the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security.

Those requirements can be met through school security assessments. These are done by school staff, and a member of local law enforcement. The team must assess 89 safety items, from perimeter control to surveillance, and emergency planning and prevention. 

Last school year was the first for these assessments. They were completed by all 1800-plus Tennessee schools, who then split up $35-million in grant for improvements based on school size and overall need. 

“Folks are excited about it, and looking forward to that money being put to good use,” noted Herrmann. 

Much of last year’s money, being put toward areas needing improvement. According to a review done by the state, those areas include vehicle control, access control, and surveillance. 

This year that grant remains, with $20-million available. There’s also $20-more available in grants, addressing school resource officers. 

“The priority on the governor and the general assembly to try and place a school resource officer in every school,” said Herrmann. “So the funding is available for schools that did not have a school resource officer in the last year.”

But this year, a first for schools is a second mandatory assessment. This one, is being handled by Homeland Security alone. 

“We focus in on things such as access control and access management. Who is authorized to be in the building, and what their purpose is,” said Allen. “We look at it from a standpoint of preventing the incident from occurring altogether. We would rather stop it from happening, than ever having to deal with it in the first place.”

For a full look at the state’s review of last year’s assessments, click here.

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