By Tamas Mondovics
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee will sign Executive Order 97, which will direct accountability measures for school safety and an evaluation of training for Tennessee law enforcement.
According to Lee’s office, the order establishes additional resources to support parents, teachers, and law enforcement in improving school security practices.
“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 a crisis, and providing confidential reporting of any suspicious activity,” said Gov. 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.”
Due to ongoing gun violence targeting schools reported across the nation, such as the tragedy on May 24, 2022, when 18-year-old Salvador Ramos fatally shot nineteen students and two teachers, and wounded seventeen other people, at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Within minutes, comments in response to the order, praising Lee’s commitment, were abundant, highlighting the need to stop the unprecedented level of violence targeting schools and
raising the number of mass shootings.
Johnson County Director of Schools Mischelle Simcox noted her desire to comment more on the matter. “Nothing has been shared with us from the Department of Education as of right now,” she said, adding, “As always, safety is a top priority for us, and we will welcome any guidance that comes our way to enhance the safety of our schools.”
A recent press release from the Governor’s office included a number elements of what Executive Order 97 will accomplish including the creation of “a School Safety Resources and Engagement Guide for parents, regarding how to effectively engage and advocate for safe conditions at their child’s school, including how to report suspicious or concerning activity through the SafeTN App, access mental health resources for their child and inquire about building security and compliance at their child’s school.
Encourages parents, families, and the local community to engage in school safety and partner with law enforcement to promote the habits and practices that help ensure school building security against unauthorized intruders. Implementing practices, such as a single point of entry and multiple points of exit, securing vestibules and other access points.
For schools, the order directs Tennessee state agencies to provide additional guidance to help local school districts (LEAs) implement existing school safety law, which requires that each public school conduct an annual school security assessment and submit a school safety plan to the Tennessee school safety center.
The order also directs the Department of Education to request permission from the federal government for districts to use existing federal ESSER funds to conduct a fulsome, independent safety assessment, including the identification of necessary facility upgrades. The Department will report to the Governor on which districts utilize that flexibility if approved.
Directs the Department of Education to identify regional staff to support school safety in LEAs through repurposing existing staff to focus on safety, mental health, and family and community engagement. Develops additional training and educational materials regarding school safety for educators, school leaders and staff, no later than August 1, 2022.
For Law Enforcement the order directs the Department of Commerce & Insurance, through TLETA, to evaluate and assess law enforcement training standards and recommend expansions, improvements, or enhancements to existing training for active-shooter scenarios, and provide a report to the Governor no later than July 1, 2022, with recommendations to expand its availability to local law enforcement agencies and related education stakeholders.
Directs the Department of Commerce & Insurance to review the use of armed security guards in non-public schools and, with the Department of Safety & Homeland Security, report to the Governor regarding the need for active-shooter training for armed guards.
For more information and details on Gov. Lee’s Executive Order 97, please visit www.tn.gov.