NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Gov. Bill Lee signed an executive order on Monday calling for the state to evaluate school security and training for Tennessee law enforcement.
"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," said Gov. Lee.
Lee said Executive Order 97 is additionally meant to promote engagement with parents, schools and law enforcement in an effort to enhance school safety in Tennessee.
State agencies will be directed to help school districts implement current laws, which require schools to conduct an annual security assessment and submit a safety plan to the Tennessee school safety center.
Lee has called for updates to the state's school safety plan to be made by no later than July 1. These updates should expand on deficiencies that were found in the school security assessments, and a breakdown of district spending on building security and other safety initiatives. Districts are being asked to designate a single point of contact for school safety matters.
The order calls for an increase in school security audits, including random in-person checks of a school's application of its safety plan.
The Department of Education has been asked to request permission from the federal government to use existing funds to conduct an independent safety assessment.
Additional training and education materials on school safety should be created for educators and school staff by no later than August 1.
Through Executive Order 97, the state has been tasked with evaluating and assessing law enforcement training standards by July 1, which will include potentially enhancing active shooting scenario training. Lee is also calling for a review of the use of armed security guards in non-public schools. The review should also evaluate whether or not those guards need active shooter training as well.
The order will also create a school safety resources and engagement guide for parents that provides them with information on advocating for safer conditions at their child's school. The guide will also include information on reporting suspicious or concerning activity through the SafeTN app.
House minority leader responds
Democratic state lawmakers are reacting to the lack of gun laws in the order.
House Minority Leader Karen Camper, D-Memphis, responded to the governor's actions, urging the state's top Republican to take more action.
"For the second time in two weeks, a mass shooting just down the road in Chattanooga has made victims of innocent people. People like our teenagers, our family members and our friends who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Add those victims to the ongoing list: 14 injured in Philadelphia, also this weekend, three dead, five people dead at a medical building in Tulsa, 21 killed — including 19 children — in Uvalde. In Buffalo, it was 10 killed and three others wounded at a supermarket, and the list goes on and on."
She said signing the executive order in relation to schools would make the buildings into "mini prisons."
"We need to have serious discussions on gun control and we have to put ideas on the table like an assault weapons ban, raising the purchasing age to 21 and expanding background checks. During my career in the Army, I had the opportunity to see the best of our nation. We lived, worked and fought together. We knew that the flag on our shoulder united us and belonged to every one of us. We have sacrificed too much already throughout the history of our nation to regress. As elected officials, we have to be leaders. We must lead the change. We have to stop this madness before it consumes us and destroys all for which our ancestors have worked and died."
Her colleague, Nashville Rep. Vincent Dixie had a harsher critique of the governor's actions.
"I can't even imagine that he took the time to write something that's going to be so ineffective that's a slap in the face to parents who've lost children to gun violence," said Rep. Dixie. "To prevent this we're going to basically make our schools jails. I don't want my daughters and my sons to go to school and they have to go on lockdown and there's a fence, teachers are armed and teachers have this active shooter training. Why can't we just attack the root cause and put the guns on the street."
Gov. Lee said there is no discussion happening to change gun laws in Tennessee.
"Criminals don't follow laws. Criminals break laws," he said. "Whether they are a gun law a drug law, criminals break laws. We need to make sure we take the... and we can't control what they do. But we can control what we can control and that's what we're working on today."