Lomax Says Local School Safety Audit Is Underway
Governor Lee Signed School Safety Measures Into Law
Last week, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed school safety legislation into law and recognized the investment of more than $230 million to strengthen safety at public and private schools across Tennessee.
“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.”
Details about the funding are still coming in, but the local school system is already taking steps ahead of the new law’s requirements.
Director of Perry County Schools Eric Lomax told the Review that while he was waiting for more information from the state, he did know that future funding for School Resource Officers would be going directly to the Sheriff’s office for budgeting.
Director Lomax said, “We have been working on our safety plans in a partnership with the Sheriff’s Office. On Monday [May 15] I have a private company coming to our system to do a safety audit and work on a grant to install bulletproof film on all of our windows at each school. Hopefully any deficiencies found in our audit will be funded with the new safety bill.”
Director Lomax said he felt the county ws lucky to have SROs at each school, and noted that steps have been taken in recent years to improve security at schools, including single points of entry and buzz-in systems.
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.