First school risk assessment report released, nearly all schools in compliance
RICHMOND, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – Nearly 100% of Kentucky schools are compliant with the School Safety and Resiliency Act (SSRA), according to the first school risk assessment report generated by the law.
Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, an educator who also serves as secretary of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, and State School Security Marshal Ben Wilcox announced the release of the report this week with the assessment showing nearly all Kentucky school districts in compliance.
The SSRA was signed into law in March 2019, mandating that school districts across Kentucky be held accountable for the safety and security of the commonwealth’s students and staff. The SSRA required that a recorded school-risk assessment be completed by the end of the 2020-2021 school year, and every year following, per law.
“The Beshear-Coleman administration puts education first and every child deserves a safe learning environment,” said Lt. Gov. Coleman. “I am proud of the commitment our schools have made to meet the SSRA mandates and these are positive results. This is another step, but we cannot be satisfied. We must be vigilant and root out vulnerabilities.”
The Office of the State School Security Marshal (OSSSM), housed within the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training, assessed facilities in all of Kentucky’s 176 school districts for compliance with the SSRA mandates. Despite the additional challenges school leaders have faced over the past year and a half due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the results demonstrate the commitment from education leaders to secure our schools. Click here to view the 2020-2021 report.
The OSSSM includes 16 investigators who are assigned to school districts across the commonwealth and assess SSRA compliance together with school leadership, school resource officers and school safety coordinators. Additionally, collaboration with the Kentucky Center for School Safety, Kentucky Board of Education (KBOE) and the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has been instrumental in guiding the commonwealth to these results.
When it comes to controlling access to school facilities and necessary safety and security processes, nearly 100% of the commonwealth is compliant with the law. For any school district still working toward 100% compliance, funding remains available to help offset any associated expenses. For help accessing the funds, school districts may contact the Kentucky Department of Education.
Security Marshal Wilcox recognizes that these results could not have been possible without a remarkable level of collaboration and teamwork.
“My staff and I are absolutely ecstatic about the openness from the school systems to work together with us to make their schools safer and learn about the mandates of this law,” he said. “The numbers speak for themselves that, even during a global pandemic, our schools are dedicated to the safety of their students and staff.”
Since accepting the marshal position in 2019, Security Marshal Wilcox has often noted that the SSRA is a mission close to his heart. The former school resource officer, father of two and husband of a school counselor said nothing is more important to him than the safety of Kentucky schools.
“The SSRA and the OSSSM have a direct effect on almost 650,000 students in nearly 1,300 schools among 176 school districts,” Wilcox said. “Everyone in the state knows someone or is related to someone who spends a good portion of their everyday lives in a school. My whole family attends school every day at the elementary, middle and high school levels. Our office is dedicated to protecting and serving these folks, and we feel the same way as everyone who puts a student on a bus or drops them off in front of a building every day.”
In Pulaski County, School Safety Coordinator Wanda Abshear said the SSRA has helped to further emphasize the importance of school safety not only to school staff, but also to parents and the whole community. The risk-assessment tool created by OSSSM to help schools meet the SSRA mandates has been instrumental in guiding schools in the right direction.
“The tool has really helped direct us into knowing what areas need improvement,” School Safety Coordinator Abshear said. “With the help of funding from KDE, we were able to look at the report (OSSSM Compliance Investigator) Toby Young gave us on the areas we needed to make sure were covered from the SSRA, and it helped us get door coverings and enhance our access systems for our doors.”
In looking toward continuing goals for the upcoming year, KDE and OSSSM have expressed two priorities. With the school facilities largely secured, the groups are now looking for improvement in numbers of school resource officers and mental health professionals.
“KDE and OSSSM have been actively working with districts across the state to ensure our schools are as safe as possible for the upcoming academic year, and our schools have been taking important safety steps,” said Kentucky Commissioner of Education Jason E. Glass. “One of our goals for the coming year will be to increase school safety and mental health supports for our students. Addressing mental health is more urgent than ever before this year, considering the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”