Governor Bill Haslam ordered the first-ever safety assessment of every Tennessee public school before the start of next school year.
Haslam made the announcement on Wednesday that the review of more than 1,700 schools will begin immediately to identify areas of risk to students and staff, reports Chalkbeat.
All school districts in the state currently have safety plans but this will be the first time the state has led a comprehensive effort to determine the security needs of each individual school, according to a statement from Haslam. The assessment was one of three recommendations submitted to Haslam by a school safety working group he established earlier this month.
“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,” wrote Haslam.
The school security checks will be executed by the Tennessee Department of Homeland Security and the Tennessee Department of Education. Haslam has ordered the agencies to immediately develop and implement a statewide assessment.
The assessment will include training for local school district personnel and first responders by Homeland Security officials, according to Nooga.com.
The second recommendation made by the working group was an increase in resources for school resource officers. For schools without on-site school resource officers, lack of funding is often cited as a primary reason. The governor’s proposed 2019 budget doubles the amount of recurring school safety grant funding for schools to $10 million annually, which can be used towards SROs or other facility security measures, according to the release. It also includes $30 million to pay for increased school security.
The third recommendation was the creation of a statewide system for the anonymous reporting of security threats or suspicious activity. The concept, which Haslam is also pushing to be implemented by next school year, would provide direct communication between the individual reporting the threat and the state, local law enforcement officials and local school districts.
The group also noted the importance of the promotion of positive behavioral health for students. Haslam has directed the Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to expand training on strategies to increase awareness and responsiveness to signs of behavioral or mental health needs.
Haslam’s proposed school safety budget will be considered by the General Assembly over the next few weeks.
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