New laws help keep Tennessee students safer in classroom

New laws help keep Tennessee students safer in classroom (Image 1)

Recent events, including a deadly tornado in Oklahoma and last December's massacre at an elementary school in Connecticut has changed the ways Tennessee leaders take action on safety.

“We're fortifying our schools more and more every year,” said David Burton, Director of Safety for Wilson County Schools for nearly 14 years said. “There have been five mass shootings, five mass murders in the past couple of years.”

During his time as Director of Safety, Burton said he has seen a number of changes that redefine the “new normal” in school safety.

According to Burton, each September every school district in the state of Tennessee is responsible for updating their emergency preparedness plan.

However, Burton added, the yearly update serves as a real plan of action created by individual districts with the help of every law enforcement in the county to make sure schools and emergency responders are as equipped as possible when responding to a crisis.

“When an agency is responding, they set up an incident command system we marry with theirs for better communication and response and better recovery,” he explained.

According to officials the planning process has been in place for years, but was re-evaluated following two deadly events in the United States last year.

In Moore, Oklahoma, a school's walls collapsed on a classroom full of children during a tornado on May 20.

Seven months later on December 12, in Newtown, Connecticut one of the nation's first mass school shooting targeting an elementary school occurred.

“With Newtown it was kind of a renewed focus on threats that were coming from the outside of the building,” Burton said. “We try to put as many blockades between the road and the school as we can. We try to make it as difficult as possible for anything to happen.”

Burton added a “new normal” will continue to be redefined in schools each year.

“School safety and community safety is always changing and growing,” he said.

Under new legislation, each school in Tennessee is required to hold an intruder drill within the first 30 days of school.

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