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A bill would allow certain teachers in Tennessee to be armed in the classroom

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Would you feel better or worse about your child's safety at school if the teacher was allowed to be armed in the classroom?

That's a question Tennessee lawmakers are actively considering, and the idea is gaining traction in the final days of the 2024 legislative session.

“This bill allows a person employed by an LEA as a teacher or staff member to carry a concealed handgun on school property,” Sen. Paul Bailey, R-Sparta, said during a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday.

But unlike previous efforts to arm teachers, this bill contains several requirements.

“Must pass a psychological evaluation and have written approval from the chief of the appropriate law enforcement agency,” stated Senator Bailey.

In addition to being psychologically evaluated and approved by a police chief or sheriff, these teachers and faculty members must also have a concealed carry permit and complete an additional 40 hours of training. The bill also requires teachers to provide their fingerprints to law enforcement.

“Someone will be well trained before they ever do it, it's not like anyone can do it. With that in mind, I think it’s a good bill,” said Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.

Democrats call it “absurd”

Despite some of these requirements, Democrats say they will not support the bill under any circumstances.

“No teacher comes to me and asks me to carry a firearm in their classroom,” said Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville. “The very idea that we need to put more firearms in our school buildings and classrooms is absurd. We can’t protect our children better like this.”

Democrats also raised concerns about the possibility of accidental shootings and that the list of teachers cleared to carry will not be made public.

“Unfortunately, many of our colleagues are on the other side [aisle] “I’ve never come across a bad idea that they didn’t like,” Rep. Clemmons said.

The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, must be approved by the Senate Calendar Committee and then goes to the Senate floor.

Meanwhile, in the Tennessee House of Representatives, the bill passed key committees last year but was then put on the table. Since it is still the 113th General Assembly, the bill can easily be revived and submitted to the House of Representatives for a full vote. “I think the sponsor may be watching what the Senate does. It’s possible, we’ll see what happens,” said spokesman Sexton.

TEA weighs

The Tennessee Education Association has strongly opposed the legislation. They say in a statement:

“If we want a safe school where our children can succeed academically, we need educators who focus on instruction and trained and certified officers who focus on safety. HB1202/SB1325 endangers both the education and safety of our children. The governor's decision to add recurring funding for a school resource officer in every school in Tennessee – a measure that TEA supported – was a major step forward in ensuring safer schools. This bill is a misstep that increases the likelihood of accidental shootings and increases the likelihood that we will be harmed. We call on our lawmakers to focus on proven measures to increase school safety – not on measures that will put our children at greater risk could.

Tennessee Education Association Spokesperson

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