Sexton: Focus is keeping kids safe, whether in public or private schools

Lt. Gov. McNally said it’s time to modernize school security at Tennessee schools.
Lt. Gov. Randy McNally sent Gov. Bill Lee a two-page letter outlining plans to increase school security in the wake of the shooting at The Covenant School.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 12:04 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2023 at 5:06 AM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - It’s time to modernize school security at Tennessee schools.

That’s the message sent to Governor Bill Lee in a letter written by Lt. Governor Randy McNally on Wednesday.

McNally wants the governor to take action on four proposals he believes will make our kids’ schools safer.

The letter is just two pages long, but it includes a number of safety measures schools would need to make to modernize security.

Saying he was deeply affected by The Covenant School shooting, McNally believes the state needs to consider his security proposals now.

Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, arrives at his seat to begin a special session...
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, R-Oak Ridge, arrives at his seat to begin a special session of the Tennessee Senate, Oct. 27, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. McNally on Thursday, March 17, 2022 said he does not support legislation that would ban abortions and allow almost anyone to file civil lawsuits against violators and collect damages. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)(Mark Humphrey | AP)

It’s one of the most horrifying images from the Covenant attack. The school’s glass door shattered by gunfire, giving the shooter easy entrance to Covenant’s main hallway.

Fearing this scene could offer future school shooters a plan of attack, McNally sent a letter to Lee highlighting four areas of school security he believes need to be improved to better protect Tennessee students, putting bullet-proofing school windows and doors as his first priority.

“Today’s focus is obviously the classroom and keeping kids safe, whether they are in public or private schools, they should be safe,” Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, said.

Sexton said lawmakers should consider four of McNally’s school security proposals including adding bulletproof glass, installing magnetic doors, putting in modern security cameras that police can access and placing armed security guards at all schools – public and private – in Tennessee.

“We should put everything on the table,” Sexton said. “School safety, mental health. Other people want to talk about guns. We can talk about guns, whatever, but all things need to be put on the table.”

But according to State Rep. John Ray Clemmons, D-Nashville, McNally’s letter and his proposals don’t address the real problem.

“We’re talking about fortifying schools,” Clemmons said. “That’s a result of the real problem. So we should be focusing on, you know, what’s causing these threats to our community and our school children on a daily basis.”

Clemmons said that threat is weapons, like the ones used in the attack at The Covenant School, and if the governor acts on McNally’s ideas instead of taking action on gun control, he’s failing Tennessee’s school-aged kids.

“People should expect more from a governor. They should expect some courage and leadership. He’s provided none of this and it’s resulted in a direct threat on our children,” Clemmons said.

In the letter McNally recognizes these security changes would come at a high cost, but he said the same type of modernization happened with fire code improvements and believes Tennessee can do it again with school safety.

Gov. Bill Lee’s office said they have had extensive conversations with the speakers and legislative leaders this week about how they can build on current legislative proposals and budget priorities to provide as much school safety support as possible, and look forward to continuing those conversations in the coming days.