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TN lawmakers want zero tolerance for students who make school violence threats

Lawmakers want to expand zero-tolerance expulsion policies to include students who make threats of mass violence.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee House lawmakers passed an amended bill that would expand the list of zero-tolerance student offenses in state schools to include threats of mass violence.

Current Tennessee laws generally require public schools to expel students for at least one year if they bring a gun into school, bring drugs into school, or if they assault and injure a school employee.

If passed, the amended version of HB340/SB190 would expand the list of zero-tolerance violations to include threats of mass violence on school property or at school events. Superintendents would make the decision over if the expelled student has to attend an alternative school or attend virtual classes.

The amended bill passed in the House on Monday. Lawmakers in the Senate Education Committee are scheduled to discuss it on Wednesday, March 22. If passed, the law would take effect on July 1, 2023.

Some schools in East Tennessee said they've seen an increase in school shooting threats and bomb threats in the past few years. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office said it had responded to around 50 school threats in the current school year alone, and at least nine students in the county were arrested after making threats as of mid-February.

"Parents and guardians just need to explain to their children that words matter, when it's a school setting," Sheriff Jeff Coffey said.

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