***Update 2.13.24 – Action was deferred on HB1664 last week and moved to the “School Safety Calendar.” No information yet available for the date of hearing.***
The Tennessee Conservative [By Kelly M. Jackson] –
A set of companion bills were filed in the first week of January that would change the current law, enabling law enforcement agencies to assign resource officers to schools who had not previously requested one.
The legislation also includes language that authorizes the appointed SRO to carry a weapon on school grounds without the express written authorization of the director of schools and the principal of the school assigned.
The legislation’s summary states, “As introduced, authorizes a law enforcement agency to assign a law enforcement officer to serve as a school resource officer at a school within a local board of education’s control that has not entered into a memorandum of understanding with a law enforcement agency to assign a school resource officer to the school. – Amends TCA Title 8; Title 37; Title 38; Title 49 and Title 62.”
In essence, it alters the law so that an SRO can be assigned without the school/district board of education entering into what is called a “memorandum of understanding” which by definition is “a nonbinding agreement that states each party’s intentions to take action, conduct a business transaction, or form a new partnership.”
In current law, those have to be initiated by the school’s board of education. This bill would create a carve out for law enforcement to take control of the issue and make an assignment, inform the school and board, and the officer assigned would have to conform to all the same standards and policies as the SRO’S who were brought in by schools voluntarily.
The absence of SRO’s in schools has been an issue this past year, in the wake of the Covenant shooting, specifically with Tennessee’s second largest school district, Metro Nashville Public Schools.
The Tennessee Conservative reported back in August on the tug of war that appeared to be taking place between MNPS and Metro Nashville, regarding the determination of whether or not to place officers in schools in the district at the elementary level. SRO’s have never historically been placed in elementary schools in MNPS, and the district’s director, Dr. Adrienne Battle, seemed to want to keep it that way.
Due to Battle’s reluctance to introduce officers into elementary schools in MNPS for a variety of reasons, Chief Drake, and then Mayor John Cooper didn’t force the issue, stating that they would place SRO’s in elementary schools in the district, “eventually”. This was in spite of some Metro Council members, likely at the behest of concerned parents, “pleading” for in school SRO’s.
MNPD currently places officers outside the elementary schools in their vehicles on a rotation, no specific officer is assigned, and they don’t enter the school unless there is an emergency or other specific reason.
It was this decision by MNPS and Metro Nashville that lead to their leaving millions of dollars on the table for school safety, that had been offered through Governor Lee’s special initiative. If it meant having to agree to assign officers within elementary schools, then MNPS didn’t want the funds, and neither did MNPD.
The Tennessee Conservative reached out to Representative Warner and asked about the bill, and he said, “the primary purpose of this bill is one thing, and that is to protect our most vulnerable and most precious assets, and that is our children”.
When asked about Dr. Adrienne Battle’s reluctance to voluntarily accept SRO presence in elementary schools in MNPS, Warner said, “Anyone who works with children and doesn’t support this bill should be asked to step down from their position. The school board should remove her.”
If this bill should make its way successfully through the legislative process, then the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over the school district’s assigned area, can simply assign and inform, taking the control out of the hands of school administration.
The House bill has been assigned to be presented and evaluated by the House K-12 Subcommittee and if voted through, will then move on through the legislative process. If passed and signed into law by Governor Lee, the new law would take effect July 1st, 2024.
We will continue to watch this bill and report on its success or failure in the coming weeks.
About the Author: Kelly Jackson is a recent escapee from corporate America, and a California refugee to Tennessee. Christ follower, Wife and Mom of three amazing teenagers. She has a BA in Comm from Point Loma Nazarene University, and has a background in law enforcement and human resources. Since the summer of 2020, she has spent any and all free time in the trenches with local grassroots orgs, including Mom’s for Liberty Williamson County and Tennessee Stands as a core member. Outspoken advocate for parents rights, medical freedom, and individual liberty. Kelly can be reached at email@example.com.