Home National news Gov. Lee issues executive order to enhance school safety

Gov. Lee issues executive order to enhance school safety

by PRIDE Newsdesk

Some of the victims of the Texas elementary school massacre. The full list of the victims includes: teachers Irma Garcia and Eva Mireles and students Xavier Lopez; Amerie Jo Garza; Jose Flores, Jr.; Alithia Ramirez; Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez; Eliahana Cruz Torres; Alexandria Lexi Rubio; Uziyah Garcia; Jayce Carmelo Luevanos; Jailah Nicole Silguero; Rojelio Torres; Nevaeh Bravo; Makenna Elrod; Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez; Ellie Lugo; Miranda Mathis; Maite Yuleana; Tess Marie Mata; and Jackie Cazares.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee has signed an executive order directing accountability measures for school safety and an evaluation of training for Tennessee law enforcement. The order also 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.”

According to Lee, Executive Order 97 will enhance school safety across Tennessee and promote engagement with parents, schools, and law enforcement.

gov bill lee

Governor Bill Lee

The Executive Order creates a School Safety Resources and Engagement Guide to provide parents with information 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 SafeTNApp, access mental health resources for their child and inquire about building security and compliance at their child’s school.

It also 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. By implementing simple practices, such as ensuring a single point of entry and multiple points of exit, securing vestibules and other access points, and reporting suspicious activity, communities have the ability to vastly increase the security of their local school.

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. This guidance will include:

  • An increase in periodic audits of Tennessee local school security assessments and school safety plans, including random in-person verification by state officials of a school’s implementation of the approved assessment;
  • A set of best practices for school leaders to enhance building security and safety against an unauthorized intruders; and
  • Information for district and local government leadership regarding financial resources for school safety is available through state programs and the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement Act (TISA).

The order also updates the state School Safety Plan Template for LEAs to be published no later than July 1, 2022 and include greater detail on:

  • A description of deficiencies identified by the LEA when conducting the school security assessment;
  • A description of district spending on building security and other school safety initiatives and how such expenditures mitigate the identified deficiencies; and
  • Designation of the district’s single point of contact for school safety matters.

Other things the order does include:

  • Ensuring LEAs receive guidance from the State Fire Marshal’s Office and other state agencies regarding how to appropriately improve school building security, while maintaining emergency egress and safeguarding of life and property from the hazards of fire and explosion.
  • Directing 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.
  • Directing 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.
  • Developing additional training and educational materials regarding school safety for educators, school leaders, and staff, no later than August 1, 2022.
    It also 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.
  • Directing 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.
  • Calling for new strategies to expand local and state law enforcement agencies by increasing the number of Tennesseans exploring and pursuing careers in law enforcement.

Disappointed by the governor’s executive order, Sen. Raumesh Akbari calls for reform to reduce gun violence

‘This is a clear emergency and we must act now,’ the senator says

Tennessee Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis)

Tennessee Sen. Raumesh Akbari (D-Memphis) has issued a statement calling for action to reduce gun violence in Tennessee. Her message comes hours after Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order related to school security without taking any direct action to address the crisis of gun violence.

 Her full statement follows:

“Gun violence is now the leading cause of death for children in America,” said Akbari. “We are the only country in the world with a major political party that chooses to do nothing to stop gun violence from killing our kids. Unfortunately, Gov. Bill Lee’s executive order on school safety is more of the same. While I am again disappointed, I am not surprised.

“Taking action to reduce gun violence shouldn’t come down to party politics. This is a clear emergency and we must act now. We cannot allow another person to be murdered in a school, grocery store, or place of worship.

“There have been nearly two dozen mass shootings in America since the Uvalde massacre at Robb Elementary. At least 54 people were injured and 11 were killed in separate mass shootings this weekend, one of which was in Chattanooga, where three Tennesseans died.

 “It’s not video games. It’s not our teachers or library books. It’s guns!

“We cannot continue to let gun industry lobbyists decide what’s best for public health and safety. It’s killing us. I reject the notion that we are helpless against confronting gun violence.

“Tennessee families believe in responsible gun ownership and they support laws that would deny firearms and weapons of war to people who can’t pass a background check. That’s not radical. That’s just common sense.

 “For all the talk about freedom, remember that our families and kids deserve the freedom to live. There are plenty of evidence-based solutions to reduce gun violence that work. If we can save another family from the pain and anguish of burying a nine-year-old child, I feel morally obligated to try.”

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