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Tennessee Governor’s school safety task force hosts first meeting

(Fox 17 News)

Governor Bill Haslam is rolling out a plan he says will keep Tennessee kids and schools safe.

His school safety task force met for the first time on Thursday.

“It is a critical task and one that is complex and obviously one that the whole country is trying to figure out what to do about school safety,” Haslam said.

Gov. Haslam believes this group of state leaders can do what other states are struggling to do. Thursday marked the first of a series of meetings for the governor’s school safety task force.

Those on the task force include people from law enforcement agencies, schools, the mental health sector and lawmakers from around the state.

“You have to constantly know the threat, and you have to adjust to that threat or you’re not doing your job,” said Commissioner David Purkey of the Dept. of Safety and Homeland Security.

Purkey chairs the 17-member group that is addressing school safety from two key areas – mental health and security measures.

The first meeting began with an assessment of Tennessee schools that shows Tennessee ranked above the national average for students bringing guns to schools. Tennessee also ranked near the highest for students who reported being threatened or injured with a gun and for reporting they don’t feel safe in school.

“There’s no doubt that students today – if you went to them and said do you feel secure in school – they’d say a lot less so than I used to and that’s part of the reality we have to deal with,” Haslam said.

It’s a reality that Ralph Thompson knows well. He once served as director of safety for Metro Nashville Public Schools. He says the governor’s task force is definitely a step in the right direction.

“This is a community effort," Thompson said. "I don’t think it involves any school district, any school system. It’s a community effort. It takes everyone to prevent this."

The last meeting for the task force is March 22. By then, the task force plans to have all of its recommendations ready to present to lawmakers and hopefully get some bills passed before lawmakers close this current session.

Those on the task force include:

  • Greg Adams, Chief Operating Officer, Office of the Governor
  • Sen. Paul Bailey
  • Rep. David Byrd
  • Sen. Dolores Gresham, R- Somerville
  • Sheriff John Fuson, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department
  • Mike Herrmann, Executive Director of Conditions for Learning, Department of Education
  • Sgt. Jeff Hicks, School Resource Officer Supervisor, Blount County Sheriff’s Office
  • Lt. Gen. Keith Huber, U.S. Army, Retired
  • Abbey Kidwell, Teacher, South Clinton Elementary School, Clinton City Schools
  • Candice McQueen, Commissioner, Department of Education
  • Dr. Cindy Minnis, School Psychologist, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Dr. Jack Parton, Superintendent, Sevier County Schools
  • Dr. Altha Stewart, University of Tennessee, Incoming President of American Psychiatric Association
  • Dr. Sonia Stewart, Principal of Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Marie Williams, Commissioner, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
  • Rep. Ryan Williams
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