Haslam appoints school security task force

Gov. Bill Haslam speaks at a press conference at the state Capitol in Nashville on March 1, 2018. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has announced a 17-member task force to evaluate ways to improve school safety in Tennessee.

The governor has asked the  group chaired by Safety Commissioner David Purkey  to “move quickly in making practical recommendations” before the end of the current legislative session.

UPDATE: Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D-Memphis) criticized the governor for setting up “a solid Republican task force on an issue where bipartisan consensus is sorely needed.”

Here’s the full release from the governor’s office:

NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced he has formed a working group of leaders from the executive branch, General Assembly, safety, education and mental health to immediately begin reviewing school safety in Tennessee and provide recommendations to enhance the security of school children.

While all schools in Tennessee currently have safety plans in place, the Governor’s School Safety Working Group will convene this week to review the policies, procedures and process of developing and implementing those plans, as well as other school safety measures, including communication and collaboration among law enforcement, educators and mental health professionals.

“All children in Tennessee deserve to learn in a safe and secure environment and I am asking this working group to move quickly in making practical recommendations that we can implement in the coming weeks and months to help increase the safety of our children,” Haslam said. “The review will be wide ranging but include specific items, such as entry to and exit from schools, training and availability of school resource officers, and in-school mental health resources for students.”

Haslam expects to have the first recommendations from the working group before the end of the legislative session.

The Governor’s School Safety Working Group will be chaired by Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner David Purkey and includes the following additional members:

  • Greg Adams, Chief Operating Officer, Office of the Governor
  • Sen. Paul Bailey
  • Rep. David Byrd
  • Sen. Dolores Gresham
  • 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
  • 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, Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School, Metro Nashville Public Schools
  • Marie Williams, Commissioner, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
  • Rep. Ryan Williams


Here is the release from Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris (D-Memphis):

NASHVILLE – Senate Minority Leader released the following statement Monday on the makeup of Gov. Haslam’s school safety working group:

“Not only did the governor set up a solid Republican task force on an issue where bipartisan consensus is sorely needed, he went out of his way to exclude voices who are committed to evidence-based solutions to prevent gun violence. The task force also lacks representation for Shelby County schools, the largest school system in the state. Tennessee is home to nationally recognized experts on gun violence prevention. How can we possibly protect our children if we focus only on security, but give up on preventing gun violence? The governor’s strategy is set up to fail.”

Sen. Harris is sponsoring legislation (SB 1472) this year to ban the sale of bump stocks, which were used in Las Vegas and mimic illegal assault weapons. Gov. Haslam previously said he supports the notion of a ban, but he has not been involved in any legislative efforts.

Sen. Harris is also the sponsor of legislation (SB 760) to create gun violence restraining orders in Tennessee, which have been endorsed by National Review’s David French.

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