Gov. Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly have prioritized investments in school safety every year since 2019. 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.
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
A complete list of Gov. Lee’s additional school safety actions since 2019 include:
Allocated New Grant Funding for Schools
· School Safety Grant – Funding for facility security, behavioral health, safety personnel, etc.
o FY20 – Increased recurring funding to $20 million ($10 million increase)
· SRO Grant – Temporary financial support to help hire full-time SROs for schools without one
o FY20 – $20 million in one-time funding was appropriated to create the program
§ Funds have been used to support the placement of around 200 new, full-time SROs each year.
Expanded Mental Health Support and Resources for Parents
· Engaged more than 11,000 Tennesseans through the SafeTN app
o Info submitted through the app has been used to investigate circumstances that likely prevent incidents of violence
· Expanded School-Based Behavioral Health Liaisons for enough funding to cover all 95 counties
o All 95 counties currently have at least one-full time behavioral health liaison
· Made mobile crisis providers available to families across the state through the 988 crisis hotline
· Launched a School Safety Toolkit to provide practical resources for families on school safety
· Increased funding for additional children and youth mental health resources, including expanding eligibility for the Behavioral Health Safety Net in 2019 to Tennesseans ages 3-17
· Dedicated $250 million to the Mental Health Trust Fund
Strengthened School Safety Practices
· Provided every school district with an updated School Safety Plan Template
· Ensured every public school has completed a physical school security assessment
· Supported school districts with school safety training resources
· Prioritized frequent, unannounced checks to ensure that school doors latch and precautions are in place
Increased Law Enforcement Engagement
· Ensured state and local law enforcement have collaborated to provide training courses in each Grand Division
· Equipped more than 600 SROs with updated training
· Directed Tennessee Highway Patrol troopers to build stronger relationships with local school leadership