House passes bill that is step toward helping all schools have security officers
Measure starts by getting districts to report issues to state marshal's office
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Legislation aimed at reinforcing student safety in Kentucky classrooms passed the House floor Tuesday with overwhelming support. Sponsored by Representative Kevin Bratcher, HB 63 builds on the School Safety and Resiliency Act by requiring a School Resource Officer (SRO) on every public school campus by August 1.
“Let me be frank: this is not an unfunded mandate. The legislation is a good step forward and gets us on the right path toward funding safety in our schools,” said Bratcher, of Jefferson. “The School Safety and Accountability Act did many great things, including an annual report on school safety every year, but one thing lacking are reasons why schools cannot fund or find personnel. When the legislature gets those statistics, we can begin addressing the problem.”
The School Safety and Resiliency Act was passed as SB 1 during the 2019 Regular Session. The Act is based on the findings of the School Safety Working Group, which was created in 2018 to gather feedback from stakeholders and find solutions to prevent tragic events in Kentucky classrooms. SB 1 essentially sought to make school facilities safer, while providing resources to help students with mental health issues. The measure included increased security and access to mental health resources. SB 1 also created a statewide school security marshal and the SRO position, a sworn officer on school grounds performing safety functions and ready if the unspeakable happens.
HB 63 provides more guidance for implementing SB 1. The measure clears up confusion by clarifying the SRO position must be physically on the assigned campus. It additionally requires school districts to report to the security marshal if there are troubles with funding or finding enough officers, so a plan can be devised to help them.
Bratcher stressed local school districts have the autonomy to hire for the resource officer position as long as they are qualified. He shared as schools move forward with plans, they will continue to have full control over deciding which buildings have the SROs and which will get them later on.
“The foundation of this bill is keeping our children safe,” added Bratcher. “Unfortunately in today’s society, that requires trained and equipped officers. I don’t think we ever imagined such horrific incidents would happen in our schools.”
Several lawmakers highlighted the importance of the bill, such as increasing oversight and accountability of school safety efforts. Representative James Tipton, of Spencer, shared his experience participating in the Principal for the Day program at a school in his district where a deputy sheriff served as the SRO.
“Throughout my time that day, I had the opportunity to observe the interactions between students and the deputy. It was a bonding type of relationship,” said Tipton. “It was a relationship you could see the student’s respect for that officer, and that’s truly what we need in our schools. We have so many social problems, and our youth are dealing with so many issues. They need positive role models right now.”
The legislation is now waiting to be heard in the Senate. For more information on HB 63, visit the Legislative Research Commission website.