Governor Bill Lee Signs School Safety Measures into Law
Professional Educators of Tennessee applauded the passage of new school safety legislation, signed into law by Governor Bill Lee. The school safety legislation provides more than $230 million to strengthen safety at public and private schools across Tennessee.
“We are grateful that the Lee Administration and the Tennessee General Assembly have made school security a priority” according to JC Bowman executive director of the organization.
“Nothing is more important than Tennessee students and teachers returning home from school safely each day,” said Gov. Lee. “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.”
At the beginning of the 2023 legislative session, Gov. Lee introduced a bill to strengthen physical security at every public school and enhance accountability in school safety protocols, in addition to an initial budget proposal that included $30 million for 122 Homeland Security agents to serve students at both public and private schools in every Tennessee county.
Following the tragic Covenant shooting, Gov. Lee worked with the General Assembly to enhance his legislation and increase funding in the Fiscal Year 23-24 budget to place an armed School Resource Officer (SRO) at every Tennessee public school, boost physical school security at public and private schools, and provide additional mental health resources for Tennesseans.
Enhanced School Safety Legislation
- Enacts a multi-tiered accountability plan to ensure exterior doors are locked while students are present.
- Requires that private security guards receive active shooter training prior to being posted at schools.
- Requires every school district to establish threat assessment teams to ensure students are connected to support services and behavioral health professionals when appropriate.
- Requires every public and private school to develop annual safety plans, including a newly required incident command drill for school leaders and law enforcement.
$230 Million in School Safety Funding
- $30 million for more than 100 Homeland Security agents across all 95 counties to serve Tennesseans and students in both public and non-public schools.
- $140 million for one full-time, armed School Resource Officer (SRO) for every public school
- $40 million for public school security upgrades
- $14 million for private school security upgrades
- $8 million for additional School-Based Behavioral Health Liaisons across the state
Since 2019, Gov. Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly have prioritized investments in school safety every year. In June 2021, the Governor signed Executive Order 97 and launched a statewide effort to enhance school safety by boosting collaboration among parents, schools, and local law enforcement across the state. A complete list of Gov. Lee’s school safety actions to date can be found here.
Bowman told WGNS in February, “There is not a single, “One-size-fits-all,” plan for safety that can be utilized in every school across the state. When dangerous behavior or issues develop in a public setting, such as a classroom or school, law enforcement is probably better equipped to handle the situation, especially in dealing with confrontational and hostile people.” He added, “Our members appreciate the state’s commitment to addressing school safety and security, including expanding Homeland Security’s presence in each county in Tennessee and school resource officers.”
Professional Educators of Tennessee is a nonpartisan education association, serving teachers, administrators, and support staff across our state.