New bills aim to protect Tennessee students

NASHVILLE — Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham introduced five bills Wednesday aiming to protect students across the state.

“Tennessee parents, when they send a child into public education in Tennessee, they ought to be confident and assured that their kids are going to be safe,” Gresham said.

Sen. Gresham, of Somerville, says two things were catalysts to get these bills filed.

One was a national investigation that looked into if schools do background checks, the transparency in sharing licensing information, sharing that information with other states and if the states have laws requiring districts to report misconduct among teachers.

Tennessee received a failing grade.

The other was a Davidson County, Tennessee, Chancery Court decision. 

“A ruling that restricted the State Board of Education’s ability to deny the reinstatement of an educator after his charge of statutory rape was expunged,” Gresham said.

Sen. Gresham also said the Tad Cummins case was taken into consideration when these bills were written.

“I will say that was the kind of pattern of behavior that we need to protect our children from,” Gresham said.

These new bills update the Teacher Code of Ethics and ensure background checks happen on an ongoing basis among other things.

We also spoke with one West Tennessee school official. He said they don’t have specific guidelines for student-teacher relationships but they do follow the guidelines sent out each year by the Tennessee School Board Association.