Tennessee Awards $35 million across all school districts to improve safety and security
All 147 school districts in Tennessee have completed the first-ever statewide assessment of school facilities and safety procedure, according to a news release from Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Commissioner of Education Candice McQueen.
Additionally, all districts have submitted applications to receive their allocations of the $35 million school security funding and may now use these funds to implement identified school security and safety needs.
“We have made security for children at our schools a priority, so there was an urgency to have all schools assessed and the funding allocated to increase school safety as we started the school year,” Haslam said. “I thank the members of the School Safety Working Group for their work to identify solutions, the General Assembly for making these funds available, and state and local public safety officials for promptly completing the assessments.”
In March, the governor’s School Safety Working Group recommended the statewide review of school facilities and safety procedures and precautions. The recommendation, accepted by the governor, led to immediate safety assessments by the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, in coordination with the Department of Education and local school officials. This was the first time the state had led a comprehensive effort to determine the security needs at individual schools. Based on the findings following this assessment, all school districts were eligible to apply for two grants to receive funding for local safety and security needs.
“Students learn best in an environment where they feel safe and protected, so it is our responsibility to ensure our schools are secure, and this funding allows us to do just that,” McQueen said. “Over and over we have heard gratitude from districts for this process that has helped them connect with their local community, especially law enforcement agencies, around school safety and to create long-term plans to support the safety of students and educators.”
The school security funding was included in the governor’s fiscal year 2019 budget and passed by the General Assembly. The funds include $25 million in one-time funding for schools to address vulnerabilities and risks, the School Safety and Security grant, and $10 million in recurring grant funding for ongoing safety and prevention programs, the Safe School grant. The grants are made on a reimbursement basis from the Tennessee Department of Education.
In many cases, these funds have allowed districts to make both minor and major improvements, such as enhanced door locks, improved visitor screening procedures and shatter-resistant glass that will provide long-term benefits to the school. Several districts used the grant allocations to improve mental health services for students by funding salaries for school counselors and child psychologists. The safety review process and related discussions also resulted in additional local funding for school safety, including an increase of 213 new school resource officers, primarily funded by local governments.
Additionally, as a result of the working group recommendations, the Department of Safety and Homeland Security is working to secure a developer to complete a statewide school safety mobile application. The application will be designed for use by students, faculty and staff to anonymously report concerning or suspicious behavior to local law enforcement and school officials.
More information on the grants and listings of the estimated district allocations can be found on the Department of Education’s website.