Tennessee Republican Governor Bill Lee plans to improve school safety after the tragedy at Nashville's Covenant School. This week, the state's Congress is preparing to reform the state's gun laws and provide all public schools with an armed guard. In the case of private schools, subsidies will be allocated for the same purpose and guards will be required to have the same level of training as in public schools.
According to information reported by The Tennessean, Lee will need legislative support from the state House to pass these new measures. The state of Tennessee has subsidized up to 200 "School Resource Officers" (SROs), the name given to armed security personnel in education facilities, since 2019 as part of a measure promoted by Lee. Under the new plan, the number of these SROs would increase, although it would be optional for private schools.
What happened at The Covenant School yesterday was a tragedy beyond comprehension. I want to speak directly to Tennesseans about the way forward. pic.twitter.com/3poMgYgxeq
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) March 28, 2023
As The Tennessean points out, a statewide survey shows that parents of students feel safer when there is at least one armed security professional at the school. In the case of the tragedy at Nashville's Covenant, and according to the 911 emergency call, the school had a staff member carrying a weapon on the day of the attack, but not an SRO.
Mental health reinforcement
Lee's measures also include a $20 million budget to fund school building security upgrades. Lee also announced that the new security program would focus on mental health and support for students with special needs. Lee's government has $250 million in unspent funds that had been allocated to mental health programs.
At the time of the attack, shooter Audrey Hale suffered from an emotional instability disorder. Her parents didn't believe she should own weapons, yet she legally purchased all five of the guns in Tennessee. As indicated by the chief of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, the state's red flag laws, under which an individual's weapons can be temporarily seized, did not address Hale's condition in the days leading up to the attack.