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Teacher Carry Bill makes its way to State House

Posted on Wednesday, April 24, 2024 at 9:01 am


As the Teacher Carry Bill made its way through the Tennessee State House on April 23 after passing through the Senate on April 9, some find themselves fully support or fully against the possible legislation.

Today, 32 states across the U.S. allow teachers and staff to carry a firearm on campus with certain restrictions. Tennessee is already one of those states.

Tennessee’s current law stands that only private schools can allow faculty to carry, and since 2016, schools in “distressed rural counties” allow certain staff members to carry concealed firearms as long as training and licensing is met. This is essentially so they can take the place of a school resource officer if the school cannot afford to hire one.

But the legislation working its way through to the House would expand this to all schools.

State Rep. Pat Marsh told The Post, “Several schools and teachers want this bill to pass. I support it as proposed if the school superintendent, principal, and the head of the local law enforcement all sign off on it.

“If Bedford County schools don’t want to do this, they don’t have to.”

If passed, the legislation would permit an LEA employee, faculty or staff, to carry a concealed handgun on school grounds. The individual would have to receive approval from the Director of Schools principal, and local law enforcement agency.

The individual must also possess a carry permit, be fingerprinted, pass a psych evaluation, and must complete a minimum of 40 hours of training specific to school policing (and must be recertified every year).

“The teacher has to want to carry and go through a psych evaluation and complete at least 40 hours of peace officer training each year and other items.

“If all these requirements are met, I don’t have a problem with the bill,” said Marsh.

Under the legislation, firearms may not be openly carried and may not be in carried during events, meetings, or clinics.

Only the Director of Schools, and in Bedford County’s case, the Sheriff, are privy to those permitted to carry.

“I also believe that having the possibility of a school employee carrying a fire arm, should make a positive impact in keeping a shooter away from the school,” Marsh said.

However, there has been much opposition to this, such as in an Open Letter and Petition to Legislators asking the General Assemble to oppose SB1325/HB1202.

The petition quotes that both the FBI and National Association of School Resource Officers do not support arming individuals with direct student responsibility.

The letter argues that “the main purpose of armed school security is to neutralize the threat and prevent loss of life and bodily harm. Anyone who hasn’t received extensive training, such as that provided to law enforcement officers, will likely be mentally unprepared to take a life, especially the life of a student assailant.”

Allowing teachers and staff to be armed “complicates” law enforcement response, according to the letter.

They also say this legislation is coming in the wake of Gov. Bill Lee and the general assembly passing funding with a $230 million dollar school safety funding package that provides $140 million for armed SROs at schools, $54 million to increase physical safeguards and security upgrades, $30 million for homeland security agents to coordinate school safety responses, and $8 million for enhanced mental health services for students.

“Additionally, there is a statewide school resource officer program grant that can be used by both public and private schools,” the letter reads.

The petition currently has over 5,000 signatures from parents, teachers, school staff, and concerned citizens from across the state.

Stay tuned with The Post to see the House’s response and how it might affect Bedford County Schools if passed.