There are four bills (could be more out there) that I am currently tracking that deal with guns in schools. I wanted to break down these bills so that you can keep an eye on them. Some of these bills deal only with guns, but some can take away funding from schools if they don’t comply. As we have seen from the Great Hearts drama, the Tennessee Department of Education will withhold funds.
1. SB77/HB633 Faculty and staff allowed to carry firearms. By Senator Stacey Campfield and Representative Joshua Evans.
This legislation would allow faculty or staff, if properly trained, to carry firearms on K-12 public school property. If staff wants to carry a firearm, they must receive the same training that a school resource officer would have to complete. The Tennessee Code Annotated lists this as the training SROs most go through.
TCA 49-6-4217: Employment standards for school resource officers.
(a) Training courses for school resource officers shall be designed specifically for school policing and shall be administered by an entity or organization approved by the peace officers standards and training (POST) commission.
(b) School resource officers shall participate in forty (40) hours of basic training in school policing within twelve (12) months of assignment to a school. Every year thereafter they shall participate in a minimum of sixteen (16) hours of training specific to school policing that has been approved by the POST commission.
(c) Within thirty (30) days of the beginning of the school term, each LEA shall publish and deliver to the commissioner an annual report of the employment standards adopted by the LEA. The report shall include a description of the LEA’s methods of enforcing the employment standards.
The bill also states that staff can only carry guns if there are no SROs in that school. Finally, the bill states that if the LEA bans guns, they are civilly liable for any criminal activity that takes place.
(B) Any local education agency that prohibits persons from possessing and carrying a handgun pursuant to subdivision (f)(2)(A) shall be civilly liable for any damages, personal injury or death that results from a criminal act by any person not authorized to be in the school in which the prohibition was in effect.
This bill does give local control to the individual LEAs to make the decision to allow staff to carry guns at school. It looks like many counties around middle Tennessee are trying to add SROs into every school. If a school district has SROs in every school, the LEA cannot allow guns in any school.
2.SB472/HB504 Requires SRO or similarly trained staff in every school. By Senator Frank Nicely and Representative Eric Watson.
This bill is very similar to the bill above. It would require each LEA to have a school resource officer OR similarly trained staff. A school district could save money by not hiring a SRO but allow a staff member to be trained.
The most important part of this bill comes next.
(c) If an LEA fails to establish a plan in compliance with this section or fails to follow a plan established pursuant to this section, the commissioner may withhold state funds, in an amount determined by the commissioner, from the LEA until the LEA is in compliance.
Yes. You have read that correctly. If a school decides not to have an armed staff member or SRO in their school, Kevin Huffman could withhold funds. As Nashville knows, that could end up in the millions.
3. SB481/HB324 Teachers may go armed. By Senator Janice Bowling and Representative Joe Carr.
This piece of legislation goes further than the previous two. This legislation would allow any employee of a pre-K or K-12 to carry a firearm if they meet certain requirements. Even if there is a SRO in the school, staff may still go armed.
The employees must meet these requirements:
- Have approval from the School Board.
- Posses a hand gun carry permit.
- Complete SRO training at least one year before school board approval.
- The LEA must notify the commissioner of education three times a year.
This bill also has local control. The staff member must get approval from the local school board before they can go armed. The school board could deny that request.
4. SB570/HB6 Allows K-12 school personnel to possess a firearm at school. By Senator Nicely and Representative Eric Watson.
This bill has some differences from the other Nicely/Watson bill including the types of bullets, the type of training, and liability coverage.
Here are the requirements to be able to possess a firearm at school:
- Must be a hand gun permit holder.
- Must take a 40 hour basic police training that is approved by the LEA. This is different than the SRO training that previous bills have cited.
- Must use frangible bullets or similar bullets, as approved by the Peace Officers Standards and Training commission.
- This part deals with the liability if the teacher hurts or kills someone.
(B) No local school district in which the director of schools authorizes a faculty or staff member to possess or carry a firearm pursuant to this subdivision (e)(8) shall be held liable in any civil action for damages,
injuries, or death resulting from or arising out of a faculty or staff member’s actions involving a firearm carried or possessed on school property unless the board of education or superintendent knew of or
intentionally solicited or procured the faculty or staff member’s actions involving a firearm that resulted in the harm.
I am no lawyer, but this reads that a LEA cannot be held liable if a teacher accidentally shoots and kills a student unless the LEA “solicited or procured” the staff members actions.
That’s the first look at the guns in schools legislation. It is a long process to becoming law and many of these bills could change drastically with amendments. Keep following Tennessee Education Report for updates regarding these bills.