Tennessee Governor Signs Bill to Arm Teachers

Guns won't be allowed in stadiums, gyms, or auditoriums when school-sponsored events are in progress, or in meetings when tenure or disciplinary matters are being discussed.
Published: April 30, 2024

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed into law Friday legislation allowing school employees to be armed in schools.

State legislators previously approved HB 1202/SB 1321 Tuesday by a vote of 68-28, authorizing faculty or staff to carry a concealed handgun in school buildings or on school grounds.

“I think we need to be really clear about what the law does -– districts have the right to choose,” Lee told WSMV during a news conference Thursday after the General Assembly’s legislative session. “What’s important to me is that we give districts tools and the option to use a tool that will keep their children safe in their schools.”

The law does not allow handguns in stadiums, gymnasiums, or auditoriums when school-sponsored events are in progress. They are also not allowed in meetings when tenure or disciplinary matters are being discussed.

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What Training Will Tennessee School Staff Need to Carry Guns on Campus?

The bill would require staff to go through 40 hours of basic training in school policing and 40 hours of Peace Officer’s Standards and Training commission-approved training that is specific to school policing each year at the educator’s expense.

School staff must also get an enhanced carry permit, complete a background check, and undergo a psychological exam conducted by a Tennessee-licensed healthcare provider.

Additionally, they must receive written authorization from the superintendent, principal, and chief of the local law enforcement agency.

Tennessee Teachers Union Opposes Arming Staff

In a statement Wednesday, the Tennessee Education Association (TEA), the largest teachers union in the state that represents over 40,000 teachers, said Governor Lee should work on measures that allow teachers to focus on education and don’t put students in “greater danger,” according to CNN.

One point of contention for opponents of the law is that parents and most school staff will not be told who in the school has a weapon or where it might be stored. There are no safe storage requirements in the bill, The Tennessean reports.

Several school systems, including Metro Nashville, Sumner, Williamson, Lebanon, and Rutherford counties, have said they would not allow teachers to be armed. Several cited their prior security measures, including armed school resource officers from local law enforcement agencies.

“Our teachers and principals carry tremendous responsibilities in teaching and supporting our students in the classroom,” Sumner County Schools Director Scott Langford wrote in a statement. “Our teachers and principals already play a critical role in school safety by ensuring that our safety procedures are followed in our school buildings daily. We do not want to add one more task or responsibility to them.”

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