Gov. Bill Haslam ordered Wednesday the first-ever assessment of every public school in Tennessee to identify security risks to students and staff.
That’s more than 1,800 schools, and the review is to begin immediately and be completed before the start of next school year.
Haslam also wants to double to $10 million the annual spending on state safety grants for schools, along with adding a one-time boost of $30 million next year. He said that money could be used to hire more law enforcement officers to police campuses or improve buildings to make them safer. The Republican governor already set aside the funding in his proposed budget, which the legislature is expected to approve next month.
In addition, he ordered adoption of a statewide platform that allows people to anonymously report threats and suspicious activity. The information would be shared with state and local law enforcement and local school districts.
The governor announced his school safety plan based on the recommendations of his task force appointed earlier this month after a shooter killed 17 people in a Florida high school. The group — comprising state lawmakers and experts in safety, education and mental health — completed its work last week after four weeks of meetings.
“All children in Tennessee deserve to learn in a safe and secure environment, and I appreciate the efficient and thorough work of the school safety working group,” Haslam said in a statement. “The recommendations of the working group, coupled with increased investment, provide a path to making immediate, impactful and unprecedented security improvements in our schools and also lay the groundwork for longer term actions around training, drills and mental health support.”
The statewide security review of schools will be conducted by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security in cooperation with state and local leaders. All Tennessee school districts have their own safety plans, but this will be the first comprehensive statewide review of schools, according the governor’s office.
The governor identified the assessment as an immediate priority, along with the anonymous reporting tool, and additional spending for school resource officers and campus security improvements.
The working group also recommended ways to enhance student behavioral health. The governor directed the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to work with the Education Department to expand training to identify and respond to those needs in schools.
The 19-year-old shooter at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was a former student who had been expelled for disciplinary reasons. Before his attack on Feb. 14, he had a troubled background and little personal support.