Emergency program proposed to add armed officers to TN schools

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Tennessee lawmakers announced a plan Wednesday that they say will protect students and teachers.

Rep. Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis) said the School Safety Act of 2018 is a bipartisan piece of legislation that stands above politics with the goal to protect students.

The bill would place trained, armed officers in schools.

It provides money for every public school in Tennessee to add up to two armed officers to its security force.

"[This act] is doing something, putting action behind our influence behind our power here at the state, and actually doing something to protect our babies," Parkinson said.

The program is optional, but if schools opt into it, they will get access to a list of local active duty officers who can participate. That list of officers will be developed by local law enforcement agencies.

The officers will be required to carry a loaded handgun while patrolling the school.

The program pays each volunteering officer $50 per school day (and $50 for any school sponsored after school event). The program will also pay $4 per day for administrative costs.

If every public school in Tennessee opts into the program, it will cost the state $39 million. The sponsors of the bill said they expected around 25 percent of public schools to opt into the program. That would cost the state around $9 million.

The money to pay for this program will initially come from the Civil Asset Forfeiture Fund--that is a fund that is built from money and valuables seized from people suspected in crimes.

"The Civil Asset Forfeiture Funds are funds that have already been taken away from Tennesseans once. I think this a good way to give it back to Tennesseans," Rep. James Van Huss (R-Jonesborough) said.

If the money from the Civil Asset Forfeiture Fund runs out, the program would take money from the state's Rainy Day Fund.

The proposed program has a 4-year sunset provision. That is because sponsors of the bill said it is designed as an immediate, emergency stopgap provision. They said in four years they hope the state and the country will come up with a more permanent solution.

Supporters of the bill said it will immediately make schools safer.

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