At school safety summit, Haslam says armed teachers not likely

Tuesday, January 29, 2013 at 4:20pm

State officials are hoping to devise a “strategic plan” to better ensure schools are safe, although Gov. Bill Haslam said arming teachers in the classroom probably won’t make the cut.

In reaction to an elementary school shooting in Connecticut that startled the nation, state lawmakers have begun pitching ideas that would require some school personnel to be better armed, such as by plugging in more school resource officers to guard buildings, and allowing teachers or administrators to carry guns on school grounds.

Instead, the governor said he’d rather start with setting aside $34 million for local officials to spend on beefing up school security or address other capital needs as they choose.

“I don’t think the answer is necessarily for us to rush in and say, ‘We’re going to put SROs everywhere.’ The truth is a lot of districts have them now and so, are we going to do it for the ones that don’t, and how’s that fair to some of the ones that are already paying for it,” Haslam told reporters Tuesday after speaking at a school safety summit, co-hosted by the state Department of Education, Williamson County Schools and the Franklin Special School District.

“Ultimately, even if we have an armed SRO or an armed administrator, that’s one person in one place, right? And they’re not going to be able to protect everything,” Haslam added.

Hundreds of education, law and mental health officials gathered in Franklin for the summit in the wake of December’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that killed 26 people, mostly students.

The event has shaken up the education community and gotten local education officials thinking about how to strengthen and refine their own emergency and safety plans. In Nashville, school officials have received the green light to begin spending $5.5 million to fast track security improvements. The school district is home to some 200 school safety officers but has no armed officers in its 75 elementary schools, according to officials.

Haslam said every local school district should have its own plan, but the state is looking for guidance on whether there are best practices that should be required for all districts.

But the governor said he’s worried whether arming teachers and administrators would make it more difficult for police officers responding to emergencies to figure out who is “the bad guy” when there are multiple people with weapons, and said teachers have enough to do trying to herd their students to safety in the event of an emergency.

“In terms of being something that would arm teachers, I just personally don’t see the effectiveness of that,” said Haslam.

Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said the most important thing he wants officials to walk away from the summit with is a sense of urgency to review their safety plans and make sure they are implementing all the pieces of their plans, like performing drills.

“Ultimately, this is locally driven,” said Huffman. “Oversight has to be driven at the local level. But I actually would say that most school districts feel pretty good about their plans, and we’re trying to move from feeling pretty good to really good about their plans.”

5 Comments on this post:

By: pswindle on 1/29/13 at 8:00

He said not likely to arm teachers, but that really means that Beth and Ron are working on it.

By: Specter47 on 1/30/13 at 9:37

If the legislature passes a law allowing the arming of teachers, it will be by a wide margin, and enough to override the governor's veto. And if it becomes law, it will be up to the individual school districts to develop procedures and policies. So don't get your panties in a wad, pswindle. All "Beth" and "Ron" would do is create a law providing for local school districts to opt in...or not. Save your complaints for your local district. Maybe they'll listen...or not.

By: Left-of-Local on 1/31/13 at 10:03

I can't believe I am saying this, but I would agree with Haslam that SROs are the way to go. We can't arm jittery and poorly-trained educators. There is no substitute for regular high pressure training. They don't have that, they can't get that, and they can't maintain that. They're a recipe for disaster.

However, we can pull some of the obscene and copious amounts of traffic cops off the street and get them into schools. Let them work somewhere they can make a real difference, instead of the imaginary reality that writing tickets saves lives.

By: GUARDIAN on 1/31/13 at 10:18

Arm any teacher who has a carry permit and wants to be armed plus put an armed LEO in each and every school. There are too many evil sick and crazy people out there many on drugs that want their 15 minutes of fame. The ONLY answer to those who would harm or children or anyone for that matter is a good man or woman with a gun and the training to use it. GUARDIAN-GOD, COUNTRY, FAMILY and FRIENDS. The American Way.

By: Ask01 on 2/2/13 at 6:53

Funny, isn't it, how so very many of those who've gone off the deep end, engaging in mindless shooting sprees,kidnappings, and other offenses, were essentially law abiding citizens, gun owners, or with access to weapons, right up to the point they became criminals?

At that point, surprisingly, the NRA and their drones cease refering to these people as law abiding, good guy gun owners, disavow them, and lump them in with the criminal element, whom they claim to need weapons to defend against.

Conveniently, they ignore the numbers of legal gun owners, or otherwise basically respected citizens, all potential gun owners turned blood thirsty mass murderers.

Selective memory, I suppose.