New Tennessee law allows police officers in private schools
Mar 31, 2023, 3:42 PM
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Friday signed a law allowing private schools to contract with local law enforcement so they can hire school resource officers, days after a Nashville shooting at a private Christian school left six dead, including three children.
The Republican governor quietly approved the law without issuing a statement. A spokesperson for Lee did not immediately return a request seeking comment. The law goes into effect immediately.
Supporters said the bill was needed to clarify statutes that had kept private schools from working with local governments to hire school resource officers. The law now clears the path for them to do so, but does not make it a requirement.
Lee is expected to unveil his own proposals in response to The Covenant School shooting in the coming days. However, he has remained largely out of the public eye this week after announcing that his wife, Maria, was close friends with Katherine Koonce — who was among the six who were shot and killed Monday morning.
Republican leaders told reporters that Lee has been meeting with lawmakers this week to discuss possible legislation and budget proposals.
In a letter to Lee, Republican Lt. Gov. Randy McNally called for securing windows and glass in school buildings, adding magnetic locks on doors, modernizing camera systems, and increasing armed guards. McNally said later that he also is in favor of red flag laws like one in Florida, but also acknowledged that such a proposal may not clear the GOP-dominant Statehouse.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Cameron Sexton told reporters Thursday that he was willing to discuss any legislative option but held back from committing to pursuing any particular policy proposal.
Last year, Lee signed an executive order on school safety measures that directed the state to conduct a report on the use of armed guards in nonpublic schools and assess their need for active-shooter training.
Most U.S. school systems conduct active-shooter and lockdown trainings, and The Covenant School had in fact undergone active-shooter training in 2022, which prevented further loss of life during Monday’s shooting, city police spokesperson Brooke Reese said.
Around the U.S., private schools generally do not face as many requirements as public schools for developing security plans. In Tennessee, laws requiring schools to develop and submit safety plans do not apply to private schools, an emailed statement from the state Department of Education said.