By Rachel O'Brien, OpenTheBooks Deputy Policy Editor
Metro Nashville Public Schools have had 14 violent threats this school year and are spending millions of dollars to keep students and staff safe.
School officials said in the end, they didn’t consider any of the threats credible, but they led to lockdowns and police sweeps of middle schools and high schools, disrupting the school day and striking fear into students and staff.
At least six of the 14 threats made so far came from students, according to the Metro Nashville Police Department.
While this has become normalized, it’s still traumatizing, parents say.
Since the spate of threats, the school district sent a letter to parents, asking them to explain to their kids the serious nature of making threats, including that a state-mandated yearlong expulsion is automatic for students who make them.
Following the March 27 mass shooting at The Covenant School in Nashville, Gov. Bill Lee announced a one-time investment of $200 million in state funding for Tennessee schools to hire school resource officers, to make physical security upgrades, for safety training and for other violence prevention programs.
To prevent violent attacks on the schools, MNPS has taken several measures.
It’s spending $3 million for entry-resistant film to place on its windows. Company Solar Tint was awarded a contract in August to provide the shatter-resistant sealant that are designed to hold the glass in place when shot multiple times. Installation at schools throughout the district is expected to take months.
Metro Nashville Police Department have provided school resource officers for middle and high schools, using more than $3 million in state funding.
But there aren’t enough officers to provide for the 70 elementary schools, so a safety ambassador program replaces school resource officers. People in those roles observe student activities for safety, patrol hallways and grounds during the school day, and assist with arrival and dismissal of students. They don’t carry weapons.
But even that role has been hard to fill, with an unknown number of openings for that job.
MNPS allocated $3.5 million from federal Covid aid for those safety ambassadors and is looking to hire more.
The police department has also said it’s placing patrol officers outside of school buildings where there are no SROs, and the department held a Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training for some 8,500 school staff.
MNPS didn’t respond to a request for comment by our deadline.