New laws targeting school violence
As schools in Tennessee and throughout the nation are continuing to resume operations after nearly a year of distance learning, students are returning to educational institutions in droves. Administrators are promoting environments where students can feel safe in the midst of an ongoing pandemic.
Other protections against other potential threats in schools statewide have become law.
Prior to Tennessee lawmakers adjourning their 2021 session, they approved legislation in response to possible violence committed on school property. Threats alone on educational premises or school-related activities will now be a Class A misdemeanor. Those with knowledge of the potential criminal act and who do not report it could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
Recent school shootings likely motivated state lawmakers to act and pass the new law. April of last year saw police rush to a school where a student was hiding in a bathroom stall with a gun. After shooting and wounding one officer, the others opened fire, killing the student. The tragedy was the fourth student dead due to similar incidences this year.
In addition to criminal penalties, those convicted of a school shooting or possessing knowledge before the incident occurred may be required to pay restitution for disrupting daily educational activities and property damage that resulted from the incident.
Students with awareness of the crime may also be required to undergo a mental health evaluation during bail and pretrial release proceedings. That process alone can be traumatizing for children before their cases go to trial.
An arrest for this or any crime does not mean a conviction is automatic. School-age children facing serious and life-changing charges, in particular, require the help of an experienced attorney. Parents need skilled representation who will pursue the best outcome that minimizes the consequences their kids face.