Legislation to help keep students safe at school wins approval


Two proposals to help keep students safe at school won approval this week, including key legislation that will allow superintendents to hire retired law enforcement officers to provide security.   The legislation comes in the wake of the shooting in Connecticut in December, which pointed to the need to increase school safety.


Governor Haslam has proposed $34 million in state funding to address ongoing capital needs in K-12 schools that can be used for school safety measures.   The School Security Act of 2013 would give school superintendents the option to hire retired police officers, highway patrol officers, federal agents, game wardens and other personnel with extensive weapons or law enforcement training to serve as security at schools upon receiving 40 additional hours of specialized training.


“Many schools are looking to bring security into their buildings in a safe and affordable and safe manner,” said Senator Niceley, (R-Strawberry Plains) who sponsored the bill.  This legislation gives them that ability.”
The 40-hour training would include education in crisis management and hostile situations in the school setting. The person would also have to complete an annual eight-hour Peace Officers Standards and Training certified firearm training program.
The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting was also the impetus behind legislation requesting the state’s BEP Review Committee to make a recommendation in its annual report this year as to whether the state’s school funding formula should be modified to include a component regarding school safety and security.  Senate Resolution 30, is sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville).


Governor Bill Haslam, state law enforcement officials and homeland security experts met with education leaders from more than 120 school systems earlier this year to discuss school safety.   Mental health specialists and emergency management officials also joined the group to think through additional measures that school districts can put into place to avoid a tragedy like the one which occurred in Newtown.   The group reviewed best practices and new ideas on school safety, noting that the right plan would likely vary district by district.  Both of these proposals fit into that plan.