NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Legislation that aims to help keep students safe at school won final approval this week which empowers a local director of schools, in conjunction with the school principal, to hire retired law enforcement officers to provide security. The legislation, sponsored by Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), also allows a teacher to possess a gun at school if they are a retired law enforcement officer that is Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) certified. However, all decisions regarding the carrying of firearms would be made at the local district and school level.
The bill comes in the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December, which pointed to the need to increase school safety. POST certification requires extensive law enforcement training, including the handling of firearms.
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, including the hiring of security. 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 and who have a handgun carry permit to serve as security at schools upon receiving 40 additional hours of specialized training. The 40-hour training would include education in crisis management and hostile situations in the school setting. Teachers who are authorized to carry guns as result of their law enforcement background would also have to go through the specialized training. The bill also requires the chief of the local law enforcement agency to be notified that the employee has been authorized to carry a gun.
“Many schools are looking to bring security into their buildings in an affordable and safe manner,” said Senator Niceley, (R-Strawberry Plains) who sponsored the bill. This legislation gives them that ability.”
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, which was passed on April 8, is sponsored by Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville).