Aug 31, 2022 - Politics

Lee updates school safety efforts

Photo illustration of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee with lines radiating from him.
Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

Gov. Bill Lee's strategy to improve school safety has been to engage parents, train police officers and ramp up security checks at schools across the state.

Why it matters: Lee's school strategy, unveiled in June via an executive order, is a template for Republican leaders looking to prevent school shootings without implementing stricter gun laws.

  • Lee's administration provided an update Tuesday on how its safety plan, released in the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, is going.

By the numbers: The governor's office said more than 10,000 residents are using the SafeTN smartphone app, which allows parents to confidentially report school safety concerns.

  • Every Tennessee school — 1,838 in total — has completed a safety assessment, and 104 of the state's 147 school districts have participated in new safety training, according to the administration.
  • Frequent unannounced checks have also taken place to test if school doors latch and if other precautions are in place, the administration says.

State of play: A key tenant of Lee's school safety plan is improving police officer training on how to respond to a mass shooting event.

  • Updated training has been provided to more than 600 school resource officers, according to Lee's office.

What he's saying: "Nothing is more important than the safety of our children, and I thank Tennesseans for doing their part as we continue our coordinated effort to protect students and teachers across the state," Lee said in a press release.

What's next: Parents and schools will soon have access to a new school safety resource and engagement guide, Lee's office says.

  • Schools will also receive updated building security standards. And law enforcement will be supported through improved recruitment and continued training efforts.

The other side: State Rep. John Ray Clemmons, a Nashville Democrat, says the state should focus on gun reform.

  • Clemmons has called for a pause on gun sales without background checks and for laws that punish people whose firearms are stolen from unlocked vehicles.
  • "Tennessee families deserve more than an app and our children shouldn't be made to feel like they're entering a maximum security prison just to feel safe in their classrooms," Clemmons tells Axios.
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