August 25th, 2022 Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association and Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police
Today concluded a day long School Violence and Safety Summit co-sponsored by Tennessee’s local law enforcement leaders. Both TSA and TACP represent law enforcement officers in Tennessee responsible for public safety, including school safety and are focused on a collaborative approach to improved safety and responses to school violence.
Keynote speaker Ms. Michele Gay, mother of Josephine Gay killed on December 14, 2012 in the Sandy Hook School tragedy, is co-founder of Safe and Sound Schools. Ms. Gay said, “We are excited to be in Tennessee and see the commitment and dedication of these law enforcement leaders as they address school violence and safety”. As a mother, educator and school safety leader through Safe and Sound Schools, she advocates improving safety and security in schools and communities across the United States. Ms. Gay cited “the importance of having first responders discussing school violence and safety is a tribute to their concern for the safety of children across the great state of Tennessee”. Joining Ms. Gay was U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office Assistant Director Dr. Matthew Schiender and Mr. Mo Canady, Executive Director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, the nation’s largest school resource officer association. During the summit, Sheriffs and Chiefs discussed the many challenges and threats to the safety of children in every community of Tennessee. Sheriff Robert Bryan, President of the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association, described the joint effort as “a first of its kind to talk about common sense approaches to address school violence and safety”. Sheriff Bryan went on to say, “law enforcement is working to ensure that our public schools are safe for our children to learn and our teachers are dedicated to educating and protecting all children and together we can improve the safety of our children and address the violence that does occur in our schools”.
Chief Deborah Faulkner, President of the TACP stated, “the TSA and TACP are
the first responders to all public safety issues in all 95 counties and more than 350
municipalities, including schools; so it just makes sense we work together as we
are closest to the challenges and problems”.
During the Summit, the initial recommendations from Sheriffs and Chiefs included development of resources to appropriately respond to active shooters. Sheriff Bryan cited, “in most cases active shooters are short term events, most often not lasting more than 3 to 5 minutes, so the first responders need to be prepared and not wait on tactical teams to deploy.” Another key finding is the need for state and local funding to support the training and equipping of local law enforcement to prepare for acts of violence against our children or other hazards that threaten their welfare.
TSA Executive Director Retired Sheriff Jeff Bledsoe cited, “local law enforcement agencies are the first responders to all violent acts in local communities and it is critical we demonstrate to the public we are deeply concerned about school violence and safety and taking steps to be better prepared to respond to all incidents”. Sheriff Bledsoe further advised, “In the next Summit meetings will expand our collaborative efforts to determine best practices, needed resources and legislative actions needed to strengthen and prepare local law enforcement to appropriately respond to school violence and safety issues”.
The Summit resulted in the TSA/TACP identifying several key outcomes, including:
Identifying steps to break down information and training silos to encourage more collaborative efforts;
Broad discussion on legislative needs and potential funding opportunities;
Discussed several possible physical site security improvements;
Discussed the underutilization of innovative technology solutions as they relate to improved school safety;
Discussion of key preparation steps based on lessons learned from acts of violence in schools across the country
In attendance at the first TSA/TACP School Violence and Safety Summit were 110 Sheriffs and Chiefs from across the state, representing a cross section of agencies, large, medium and small. Sheriff Dusty Rhoades hosted the event at the Williamson County Public Safety Center in Franklin.
The Summit was the first of a series of events to be co-sponsored by the Sheriffs and Chiefs of Tennessee to bring attention to school violence and safety, with meaningful steps to address the challenges. Plans for the next Summit will include state based law enforcement, training officials from state and local agencies, and educational leaders.