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News4 Investigates: Substitute teachers fear the worst without keys to classroom

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - Reports of any mass shooting have teachers wanting to do everything they can to keep your kids safe at school.

News4 Investigates has uncovered something that could be putting kids’ safety at risk – the ability to lock the classroom door in the case of an emergency.

A Middle Tennessee substitute teacher is raising a red flag about a policy that could make a huge difference when seconds is all they have to keep kids safe.

It’s the only way she thought she could protect her students in the worst of circumstances until she realized what she couldn’t do.

“It became a concern when I realized I could not lock my own door,” said one substitute teacher.

She can’t help but wonder what if a school shooting happened while she was teaching.

News4 is not identifying the substitute teacher for Wilson County Schools for fear of retaliation.

Filling in multiple days a week, she said she’s rarely given a key to the classroom.

“If I can’t lock my door, how do I protect my kids?” the substitute asked.

When the substitute teacher asked if she could get a key, she was told they didn’t provide keys.

The teacher has to depend on someone else to come do it for her. The concern? What if there was an active shooter?

“If you leave us substitutes out in the middle of the street with nothing, we’re definitely going to get hit,” she said.

News4 Investigates found out Wilson County isn’t the only district that doesn’t always give substitute teachers keys to their rooms.

News4 Investigates contacted the major school districts in Middle Tennessee. Most don’t have a specific policy and every district and school are different.

In Metro Nashville Public Schools, each case is different but sometimes keys are given out to substitute teachers. Williamson County Schools told News4 the same. Rutherford County and Cheatham County school systems told News4 they don’t give keys to substitutes.

In the Franklin Special School District, one of the eight schools in the district gives keys to substitute teachers. Franklin Special School District is one of the districts to tell us while they don’t generally give out keys to substitute teachers, all classroom doors in the district can be locked from the inside with a push of a button. That’s according to a district spokeswoman for FSSD.

Sumner County Schools said it gives key to substitutes only when necessary. Parents were shocked to hear what News4 Investigates found out.

“It does seem like for that particular day at least the sub is there they would need access to a key for safety reasons,” one Nashville mom said.

Wilson County Schools officials wouldn't answer News4 questions, including what the actual policy is. A spokesperson for Wilson County Schools tells News4 the reason for not answering our questions is for safety and security reasons. 

“I will save those kids no matter what, and I’ll do whatever I have to,” the substitute teacher said.

The substitute teacher feels a change in policy needs to happen, not just in Wilson County but all Tennessee school districts.

“It would give me the peace of mind that this item I’m holding in my hand can protect the kids I have here,” she said.

While some districts can lock their doors from the inside with a button, not all schools have that option. A key is necessary in order to lock a door from the inside in the majority of schools. is now with you on the go! Get the latest news updates and video, 4WARN weather forecast, weather radar, special investigative reports, sports headlines and much more from News4 Nashville.

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