Tennessee’s Lee introduces executive order to appraise safety at public schools

(The Center Square) – Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee introduced an executive order on Monday to evaluate school safety throughout the state.

The order comes less than two weeks after a gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.

The executive order contains requirements for everything from new school security assessments and funding to a new state school security plan template, discussion with the state fire marshal on school security improvements and an evaluation on the use of armed security guards at private schools.

“Parents need to have full confidence that their children are safe at school, and thankfully, Tennessee has built a firm foundation with our practical approach to securing schools, recognizing crisis and providing confidential reporting of any suspicious activity,” said Lee. “This order strengthens accountability and transparency around existing school safety planning and assures Tennessee parents that our efforts to protect students and teachers will continue.”

The order requires the state’s School Safety Plan to be updated no later than July 1 with more specifics on security deficiencies identified during each district’s annual school security assessment, a description of building security spending and initiatives and the clear designation of a single point of contact for school safety matters.

The new guidance will also increase audits of school safety plans, which will include in-person verification from state officials. The guidance will also include best practices for schools related to intruders and financial resources available for school safety improvements.

The order also will create a school safety resource guide for parents on how to advocate for safe school conditions and report suspicious activity through the SafeTN App.

“By implementing simple practices, such as ensuring a single point of entry and multiple points of exit, securing vestibules and other access points, and reporting suspicious activity, communities have the ability to vastly increase the security of their local school,” the description of the order reads.

The order also asks the Department of Education to formally request the ability to use federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds to conduct independent safety assessments.

It also requires additional training and education materials for school staff to be available by Aug. 1.

In the law enforcement portion of the order, Lee is requiring the Department of Commerce & Insurance to evaluate armed security guards in private schools along with the expansion and improvement on law enforcement training and active-shooter scenarios with a report including recommendations due by July 1.

One Democratic state senator didn’t agree with the steps taken by the governor.

“How to spend Tennessee tax dollars on bureaucratic red tape while accomplishing nothing- except making state and school employees lives harder,” said state Sen. Heidi Campball, D-Nashville, on Twitter. “He knows how to make school safer- this isn’t it.