Bipartisan bill calls for armed guards at Tennessee schools

(Fox 17 News)

Tennessee lawmakers crossed the aisle on Wednesday to come up with what they call an emergency plan to protect schools and a model for the country to follow.

Chiquita Stinson said she worries about her daughter’s safety every day.

“When I leave for work and I leave my child to go to school and you want to hope for the best," Stinson said. "You don’t want to think that things will happen."

State lawmakers introduced a bipartisan bill called the School Safety Act of 2018 on Wednesday. It allows public schools the option to hire up to two off-duty law enforcement officers to provide armed security at the school. This will be in addition to the school resource officers already at some schools.

“More than ever our kids are vulnerable to evil people with evil intentions," Rep. Micah Van Huss said. "Now is the time for us to come together to protect our babies."

The extra security officers will be off-duty officers who work for the local police department, sheriff’s office, Tennessee Highway Patrol, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation or constables. The state will foot the bill of $54 a day per officer.

Out of that money, $2 will go towards the participating school. Another $2 will be donated to the agency the officer represents for administrative costs.

If all of Tennessee’s 1,800 public schools participate, it could cost Tennessee up to $39 million a year and come out of the civil asset forfeiture fund.

“We know SROs work and we should put (extra officers) in schools where they have them to get them more help," Sen. Mark Green said. "Where they don’t have (SROs), this program really will be an asset."

The bill also requires that the officers carry a loaded handgun, but it will be up to the school if the officer locks up that gun up or carries it around. The school will also decide if the officer is to wear a uniform or walk around in plain clothes.

No matter how they do it, Chiquita Stinson said she’s happy something is being done to keep her daughter safe.

“Our children’s safety is important to us, and we do not want our children to fear going to a place that is supposed to protect them because that is where they spend the majority of their time throughout the week,” Stinson said.

The bill has several hurdles to cross before it hits the floor for vote. If it passes, the bill would go into effect July 1. It has a four-year window, which lawmakers say gives them time to find a more permanent solution.

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