NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As Tennessee students head back to school, communities in Middle Tennessee have taken steps to ensure children are safe in the classroom.
Laws passed by the Tennessee General Assembly and executive actions from Governor Bill Lee sought to target school security.
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One such law that took effect earlier this month was SB1670, which added new human trafficking training requirements for school employees. Under previous law, only teachers were required to take a state-mandated human trafficking training course, but SB1670 added other school employees, like bus drivers, janitors and cafeteria workers.
Another law passed by the General Assembly was the “Save Tennessee Students Act,” which required schools that issue student identification cards to children in sixth through 12th grades include the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, as well as other means of communication for additional crisis resource centers. That law takes effect for this upcoming school year, according to the bill text.
Lawmakers also cracked down on those who make threats on school grounds. House Bill 534 creates a Class A misdemeanor offense for anyone who “communicates a threat to commit an act of mass violence on school property or at a school-related activity.” The law also creates a lesser misdemeanor for those who know about a potential threat but fail to report it.
Lawmakers also took steps to make schools safer from the outside, with a law to increase penalties for those who do not stop for a school bus. Prior law had the misdemeanor charge face a simple $50 fine, but the legislature raised the amount 300% to $200.
Additionally, Gov. Bill Lee signed an Executive Order directing $20 million in recurring funds for the upcoming school year through the Safe Schools Grants. It was part of the Safe Schools Act, which sought to “decrease the likelihood of violent or disruptive behavior and to protect students and staff from harm when such behavior may occur.”
The funds were made available to all Tennessee public schools for things such as facility security and planning, school safety personnel, violence protection, training and drills and behavioral health.