House Bill 322 aims to codify best practices and implement statewide standard for school safety while the proposed budget allocates $50 million for new enhancements including School Safety Grants and the Tennessee School Safety Initiative.
The tragedy at the Covenant School, a private Christian academy in Nashville, turned the spotlight on school safety in the Volunteer State. Since 2018, Republicans provided more than $550 million to make Tennessee public schools safer. This money has provided school resource officers (SROs), enhanced school security measures and mental health resources. Funding for school safety is built into the new student-based funding formula known as the Tennessee Investment in Student Achievement (TISA) which goes into effect on July 1.
The 2023-24 fiscal year budget proposes an additional $50 million to address new school safety enhancements. Of that, $20 million is proposed for School Safety Grants directed to local school districts.
The School Safety Act of 2023, House Bill 322, sponsored by House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, and House Education Chairman Mark White, R-Memphis, codifies best practices already carried out in most Tennessee schools. The bill aims to ensure a statewide standard of school safety by putting in place collaborative prevention strategies for threat assessment, active shooter drills, and requires public and charter schools to secure all exterior doors and vestibules. It requires all newly built schools to install classroom door locks. An amendment pending on the bill would extend the law to include private schools.
This year’s upcoming budget also includes nearly $32 million for the Tennessee School Safety Initiative. It provides 131 new positions to support the school safety division related Homeland Security. It would provide at least one special agent for each of the state’s 95 counties. The agent would be responsible for providing threat assessments, monitoring safety as well as collaborating with law enforcement. House Bill 322 is scheduled to be considered in the House chamber on April 6.