Parents and educators question if new school threat law in Tennessee is enough

Now, a threat of mass violence against a school is in violation of a “zero-tolerance policy.”
Now, a threat of mass violence against a school is in violation of a “zero-tolerance policy.”
Published: Aug. 2, 2023 at 5:34 PM CDT
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WSMV) - WSMV4 found dozens of threats were made to schools in Middle Tennessee last year.

State legislators are trying to stop that number from growing with a new law in effect this year.

Five-year-old Liam Pittman is focused on running and climbing on the playground now. But when he starts kindergarten, this fall, his focus will be here at Rossview Elementary School in Clarksville.

It’s the same school students and staff went into lockdown last year after a call was made saying someone inside the school had a gun. It was a hoax, but incidents like that have Liam’s mom, Valerie Pittman, worried.

“It never was on my mind before,” said Valerie Pittman. “But now that it was in our backyard, you really just never know.”

The calls are coming in at more than just Liam’s school. Clarksville Montgomery School System said there were 53 threats made to their schools last year. In other Middle Tennessee counties, Wilson County Sheriff’s Office said they had 33 and Metro Nashville Police Department responded to 90 school threats in the 2022-2023 school year.

A new law aims to cut that number down. Now, a threat of mass violence against a school is in violation of a “zero-tolerance policy.” That means a student will be expelled for at least a year, just by bringing a gun on school property.

“I check their backpacks a lot,” said Terri Marcum, a teacher in Nashville for 23 years. “It’s just because it’s there. It’s a reality.”

Marcum teaches at KIPP Antioch College Prep. She said she’s always thinking about safety and doesn’t know if the new law is enough.

“I think it may deter some of them but not all,” said Marcum. “Because some of the students are kind of looking for that.”

Valerie Pittman believes this new legislation is part of the solution.

“I think it’s a stepping stone, but I do think more protection in our schools would be more helpful,” she said.

She wants to see more SROs at schools but knows after she drops Liam off each day, what happens is out of her control.

Legislators who proposed the law said there is a plan after a student threatens a school and is expelled. Senator Jon Lundberg said the student can transfer to another district. That district can put that student in an alternative setting.