The largest teachers union in the state is quietly on board with allowing educators to carry a weapon to class, at least as a last resort. The Tennessee Education Association is supporting a bill under consideration by the state legislature.
The TEA would prefer teachers not need to bring a gun to school, says president Gera Summerford. “I think the way we would look at it is it’s the responsibility of law enforcement-trained personnel,” she says.
But the TEA also wants a school resource officer in every school. So the organization has signed onto a bill from state Sen. Frank Niceley that would mandate it. If there’s no money for a uniformed officer, the legislation allows an administrator or faculty member to be trained. As long as no teacher is forced to carry a weapon, the teachers union says they’re in support.
But there’s been bi-partisan resistance to arming teachers at all. House Democratic Leader Craig Fitzhugh says he worries about a gun getting into the wrong hands.
“The kind of student I’d be tries to go and have a look at the weapon or something worse than that," he says. " I can just see all kinds of problems with teachers going armed.”
Republican Governor Bill Haslam has also expressed misgivings, saying he doesn’t know many teachers who would want to carry a gun.
Niceley also has a much broader bill that would allow any teacher with permission and the proper training to carry a weapon to class. Lobbyists with the teachers union say their support is limited to arming one teacher per school.