Tennessee generally prohibits the carrying, whether openly or concealed and with the intent to go armed, of any firearm that is not used solely for instructional or school-sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in any public or private school building or bus, on any public or private school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field or any other property owned, used or operated by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution.1
Moreover, with certain exceptions, no person may possess or carry any firearm, whether openly or concealed, that is not used solely for instructional or school-sanctioned ceremonial purposes, in any public or private school building or bus, on any public or private school campus, grounds, recreation area, athletic field or any other property owned, used or operated by any board of education, school, college or university board of trustees, regents or directors for the administration of any public or private educational institution.2 Notwithstanding this prohibition, adults who are not students may possess a firearm if contained within a private vehicle operated by the adult and it is not handled by the adult or by any other person acting with the expressed or implied consent of such adult, while the vehicle is on school property.3
Tennessee law authorizes private K-12 schools and institutions of higher education to establish a handgun carry policy for any property on which the school is located, that is owned or operated by the school, and for any building or structure located on the school property.4 This policy may prohibit the carrying of handguns on school property entirely, or it may allow the carrying of handguns on designated portions of school property, subject to certain limitations.5 This policy cannot apply to a person who is otherwise prohibited from possessing a handgun, and may only apply to individuals that have a valid Tennessee handgun carry permit.6 The policy must be placed in writing and communicated in a manner to ensure that it is known by students attending the school, the parent or guardian of each student, the faculty and other employees, and others who may visit school grounds.7 If a private school does not implement such a policy, then the carrying of a handgun on school grounds is prohibited.8
In addition, Tennessee law authorizes, but does not require, local boards of education to adopt a policy authorizing off-duty law enforcement officers to serve as armed school security officers during regular school hours when children are present on the school’s premises, as well as during school-sponsored events. Tennessee law sets forth a process by which local boards of education may enter into memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with each law enforcement agency that employs the law enforcement officers selected to serve as armed school security officers. This MOU will establish the policies and procedures governing the presence of armed school security officers, including whether such officer is required to be uniformed while on school premises.9
With respect to public institutions of higher education, an employee of such an institution may carry a handgun on property owned, operated, or controlled by the institution, so long as the employee is otherwise authorized to carry a concealed handgun pursuant to Tennessee law.10 For more information on the requirements for obtaining a permit to carry a concealed handgun, visit our page on Concealed Weapons Permitting in Tennessee.
An employee who opts to carry a handgun under this exception must provide written notification to the law enforcement agency or agencies with jurisdiction over the educational institution’s property.11 Pursuant to this law, law enforcement agencies may develop and implement a voluntary course of special or supplemental firearm training to be offered to the employees electing to carry a handgun.12 This exception does not apply in a variety of circumstances, including school stadiums, gymnasiums, and auditoriums when school-sponsored events are in progress, meetings regarding disciplinary matters, or meetings regarding tenure issues.13
Chief administrators of a public or private school must display in prominent locations at the school a sign, at least six inches high and fourteen inches wide, stating:
“FELONY. STATE LAW PRESCRIBES A MAXIMUM PENALTY OF SIX (6) YEARS IMPRISONMENT AND A FINE NOT TO EXCEED THREE THOUSAND DOLLARS ($3,000) FOR CARRYING WEAPONS ON SCHOOL PROPERTY.”14
Tennessee law allows the local board of education in a “distressed rural county” to adopt a policy allowing the director of schools, in consultation with the principal of each school, to authorize and select employees who may carry a concealed handgun within and on the grounds of the school to which the person is assigned.15 The maximum number of employees that may be authorized to carry a handgun on school grounds pursuant to this law is 1 employee for every 100 students enrolled in the school.16 Employees cannot be selected unless they: 1) have a valid handgun carry permit issued by the state; 2) are not otherwise prohibited from possessing handguns; 3) have completed at least 40 hours of state-approved handgun instruction; and 4) on an annual basis, complete at least 16 hours of state-approved continuing handgun instruction.17 Upon authorizing an employee to carry a handgun pursuant to this law, school officials must notify local law enforcement. The authorization is subject to revocation at any time, with or without cause, by the board of education and director of schools.18
Tennessee law prohibits school administrators, teachers, or other employees from requiring a student or the student’s parent to provide information regarding firearm ownership by the student’s family.19. Nor may a teacher or other school employee be required to provide information on firearm ownership by the teacher or school employee.20 Finally, any information regarding firearm ownership that is voluntarily provided by a student, parent, teacher, or school employee, must not be the basis for adverse disciplinary action against a student, or adverse employment action against a teacher or employee.21
Under Tennessee law, a local education agency may offer a non-compulsory gun safety class or program for students in elementary school. The course of instruction must not permit the use or presence of live ammunition or live fire.22
See our Guns in Schools policy summary for a comprehensive discussion on this issue.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1309(b)(1).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1309(c)(1).
- Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 49-50-803, 49-7-161, and 39-17-1309.
- Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 49-50-803 and 49-7-161.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-809.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1309. In these circumstances, “employee” includes all faculty, staff, and other persons who are employed on a full-time basis by a public institution of higher education and does not include students, even if they are also an employee. Id.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1309(11). The employee’s information that is gather pursuant to this provision is to be kept confidential, except in very limited circumstances. Moreover, unless carrying a firearm is part of the employee’s job description, the decision to carry is considered a voluntary choice and, for legal purposes, such an employee is not acting within the scope of employment when carrying or using a handgun. Finally, the institution generally has absolute immunity from claims for monetary damages arising solely from an employee’s use of, or failure to use, a handgun. Id.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1309(11)(C)(v).
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 39-17-1309(d). Limited exceptions and affirmative defenses to the school property possession restrictions are listed under Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 39-17-1309(e), 39-17-1310.
- Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 49-6-816 and 39-17-1309.
- Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 49-6-816.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-2-129.
- Tenn. Code Ann. § 49-6-1016.