Next week, Lee will propose a plan to funnel millions of dollars to public and private schools to beef up security following the mass shooting at a Nashville Christian elementary school on Monday. Lee’s plan would place an armed school resource officer (SRO) in every public school and provide funding for private schools to hire armed guards with the same level of training as those in public schools. Private schools would not be forced to join in on the program, The Tennessean reported.
“I think we all understand when people are fearful, when people are angry, when people lash out. I have those same emotions myself, we all do,” Lee said. “We have an obligation, I have an obligation, to do what I can and work together with leaders across this community to address people’s concerns and to protect our kids in whatever way we can.”
The Republican governor reportedly said he will work over the weekend to ensure his plan will get schools the funding and resources they need. Lee’s proposed budget earlier this year included $20 million for schools to use on security upgrades, but he wants to expand that funding to include private schools. The Covenant School, where a trans-identifying woman killed three adults and three 9-year-old children, is a private Presbyterian school.
Earlier this week, Tennessee Republican Sens. Marsha Blackburn and Bill Hagerty announced that they will introduce The SAFE School Act at the federal level. The legislation seeks to establish “a $900 million grant program that will allow both public and private schools to train and hire veterans and former law enforcement officers to serve as school safety officers, hire off duty law enforcement officers, and provide funding to harden schools and increase physical security.”
The governor also addressed “mental health concerns,” adding that his new plan will seek more mental health support through school-based behavioral health liaisons, according to The Tennessean.
“There will be conversations across the board about mental health for students and mental health in general. And support for those who need help, and who do in fact become a threat to themselves or others,” Lee said.
Lee’s proposed plan to reinforce school security comes after hundreds of protesters stormed the Tennessee state capitol in Nashville on Thursday, demanding that lawmakers take action to pass gun control.
Lee did not specifically mention gun control measures, such as “red flag laws” that would allow the government to take firearms away from those who are found to be at risk to themselves or others, but he did touch on the topic in one comment to The Tennessean.
“Most practical, thoughtful people believe that individuals who are a threat to themselves or to others shouldn’t have access to weapons,” Lee said. “In my view, that’s a practical, thoughtful approach.”
Asked to clarify his position on a “red flag law,” Lee’s office told The Daily Wire that it’s important to the governor to pursue solutions that will seek to protect both the lives and Constitutional rights of those in his state.
“In light of the recent tragedy at Covenant, the Governor is proposing further action within his current school safety proposals, including funding to place an SRO in every Tennessee school, boost physical school security and provide additional mental health resources for Tennesseans,” Lee’s office said in an email. “As the Governor mentioned yesterday, his goal is to continue to protect the constitutional rights of Tennesseans and protect Tennesseans from those who wish to do harm to themselves or others. He believes any practical solutions must ensure both.”