Reports of guns in TN schools running at double national average

Tennessee has double the national rate of kids caught bringing a gun or possessing one at school, state Education Commissioner Candice McQueen told the opening session of Gov. Bill Haslam’s working group on school safety on Thursday. At the same time, the state currently has just 865 school resource officers assigned to protect an estimated 1 million children in the state’s schools.

Further from the Times Free Press report:

Haslam created the group this week with the goal of developing recommendations for the governor and state lawmakers to act on in the wake of the latest school shooting, this one at a Parkland, Fla., high school where 17 people, including students and faculty, died last month. The General Assembly is expected to adjourn in mid-April.

…McQuee said the rate of Tennessee students caught bringing a gun to school or possessing one was 7.5 per 100,000 students in the 2015/2016 school year, versus a national average of 3.1.

Moreover, the percentage of state students in grades nine through 12 who reported being threatened or injured with a weapon on school property was 10.2, versus a national average of 6 percent. Tennessee ranked close to Arkansas, which had the nation’s highest percentage at 10.6.

“Tennessee is generally on the high end,” McQueen explained to fellow members of the 16-person panel.

And the percentage of Tennessee high school students who said they had skipped school because they didn’t feel safe shot up from 5 percent in 2011 to 9.3 percent by 2015. Last year, the annual survey of about 20,000 students in participating districts showed the number falling to 8.1 percent.

… In starting the meeting, Haslam told members not to get sidetracked by “hot button” political issues surrounding the subject and focus instead of getting “to the root” of weaknesses and appropriate responses.

…Speaking later with reporters, the governor said the group has a “critical task but also one that’s complex. The whole country is trying to figure out what to do about school safety.”

…The group hopes to wrap up its work by March 22. Haslam said he hopes that will give him time to bring legislation and make adjustments to his proposed budget…. The governor also noted that, while he would like to have a package of measures ready for lawmakers before they adjourn, he has no issue with calling a special legislative session if necessary.

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