NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A proposal that would allow school districts to hire retired law enforcement officers for security advanced in the Legislature on Wednesday after being approved by the governor.
The legislation sponsored by Republican Rep. Eric Watson of Cleveland passed the House Civil Justice Committee on a voice vote before being approved 5-2 by the Senate Education Committee.
The proposal is different from the original version, which would have allowed school teachers and faculty with handgun carry permits to be armed at school. Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has said he’s against such a proposal and others like it being considered this session.
However, a representative from the governor’s office said Wednesday that the governor is OK with the bill that’s advancing.
The proposal would allow schools to hire retired law enforcement officers after they meet certain requirements, such as completing a school policing course. Total raining could require over 400 hours.
“This bill just doesn’t had out a gun to a staff member or faculty member,” said Watson, who is a detective. “You’ve got to have a lot of training, you’ve got to be a former law enforcement officer.”
Haslam has included $34 million in his budget for local government officials to use on so-called priorities. Sponsors say they expect much of the money to go toward security in the wake of the killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
They also believe their legislation will help many school districts struggling financially.
“We want to give these locals options,” said Senate sponsor Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains. “This is good as we’re going to get passed this year.”
Gera Summerford, president of the Tennessee Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, said she believe such a measure would be beneficial.
“As we look at school safety, I think it is important to recognize that the needs are different from one school system to another,” she said. “There’s a lot of difference between an urban system and a rural system. And I do see that there’s an appropriate place for allowing some flexibility and allowing some decision making at the local level.”