State leaders joined representatives from more than 120 Tennessee school systems last week at The Factory in Franklin for a summit to discuss school districts’ safety practices.
Dr. Wanda Shelton, director of schools, and Carman Smith, supervisor, represented Lincoln County School System at the summit. Dr. Janine Wilson, director of schools, and Ron Perrin, supervisor, represented the Fayetteville City School System.
Gov. Bill Haslam, officials from state agencies, including education, homeland security, mental health and emergency management, attended this one-day event designed to engage stakeholders in a conversation around the safety resources and practices currently in place in Tennessee schools and to think through additional measures that schools and districts can put into place. Attendees also heard from leading state and national experts on current practices in safety, law enforcement and mental health.
“The tragedy in Newtown has given us all an opportunity to sit down, and as lawmakers, educators and parents, to focus our attention on one of our top priorities: the safety and security of our children,” said Haslam. “As the father of an elementary school teacher, I know personally how critical it is for us to ensure that we create safe spaces for our students and teachers.”
Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman agreed, noting that the right plan would likely vary district by district, but that schools already are doing a solid job of keeping students safe.
“We strongly believe that schools have been doing the right thing with regards to keeping our students safe,’ said Huffman. “Today, district leaders revisited best practices and heard the latest ideas on school safety; we hope everyone here today continues to keep this conversation going in their communities.”
Mike Looney, director of Williamson County Schools, one of the event’s hosts, said he appreciated the opportunity to share ideas with his colleagues.
“School districts participate in various forms of school safety training throughout the year, but having more than 400 sheriffs, police chiefs, mental health professionals, educators and policymakers in one room discussing this issue has been helpful,” he said. “We all have a part to play.”
In his 2013 State of the State address last Monday, Haslam outlined his FY 13-14 budget proposal which includes $34 million to address ongoing capital needs in K-12 schools across the state. These dollars can also be used for increased security measures if local officials decide to do so.