State senator working on bill to provide school safety and security audits | #schoolsaftey

A bill to provide school safety and security audits is in the works. Senator Arthur Orr is sponsoring the legislation and intends to have it filed at the start of the 2024 legislative session.

The bill would create a group of law enforcement officers familiar with strengthening the safety and security measures in buildings. The group would travel around the state to conduct these audits.

Orr believes this would be particularly beneficial for schools that don’t have access to this type of expertise, however, all schools would be inspected.

“We have a very high degree of variance across the state. Some schools have no locks on the doors. They can’t protect themselves. You see other schools with glass that could be shot out, like the school in Nashville, and the intruder can enter. What can we do in taking the more needy schools and addressing their needs first? Then going up the ladder and improving the hardening of security of each school in our state,” said Orr.

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The focus of the bill is on safety measures to guard against intruders and active shooter situations.

After the audits are complete, Orr said it would then fall onto the state to determine a funding source for needed improvements. Orr is the chairperson of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.

He sees funding taking form through a grant program using a portion of Education Trust Fund money.

“A lot of our schools, what they will say is, “we don’t have the money.” That’s the reason I would like to as the budget chair, see if we can’t assess the needs with a team of experts, not just the locals saying give me that, give me this, but a team of experts that say we have got to improve here and there and there’s a list and then we help provide grant money to schools and begin chipping away at the security needs they may have” said Orr. “We are blessed to have been very strategic in our budgeting as far as our Education Trust Fund. We could start the ball rolling. Are we going to be able to address every need starting year one? Absolutely not. But, if we start the small pot of funds to begin funding some of these critical needs out there, I think that’s something we can achieve.”

Orr said they were able to appropriate funds specifically for school safety during the 2023 legislative session.

The initial assessments of all schools could take years. After the initial assessments are done, schools would be audited every three to five years to ensure safety practices are where they need to be.

Orr is also working on a portion of the bill to improve the mapping of schools to help law enforcement be better prepared to deal with situations if they arise.

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