JCPS leaning toward arming school safety officers

Published: Dec. 17, 2019 at 11:49 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – The newest proposal for in-house security calls for a school safety officer in every JCPS middle school and high school.

The idea is that officers would focus on responding to safety issues, rather than disciplining students.

“We need to make sure that these officers have a great desire to help and teach these kids, be a mentor to them,” JCPS project manager Minerva Virola said.

The officers would be school district employees, and JCPS officials would have control over who would be hired. They would go through on-going, consistent training that would amount to 60 more hours yearly than the state mandates for SROs.

It would include training in cross-cultural communication and implicit bias.

At a work session Tuesday, Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio said the district is leaning towards arming the officers.

“We want someone who’s able to go towards that threat, not someone who’s going to go along with the teachers and the students with a radio and telling them where they’re at,” said Virola.

Board member Linda Duncan said she can’t support putting unarmed staff in the way of armed students.

Others believe feelings are overshadowing the research.

Board member Dr. Chris Kolb stressed the importance of building positive relationships between the officers and students.

“In schools with lower levels of trust, where they don’t have those relationships, they’re much less likely to confide in an adult that they suspect or know that there may be a gun in the school,” said Kolb.

A survey sent to middle and high schools showed 90% of teachers want an SRO in their school. But some people argue a police presence can be harmful to certain students.

“We’d rather see different kinds of people hired,” Chris Harmer with Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools said. “We want to see social workers, ex-teachers [and] psychologists hired.”

An official proposal will be presented to the policy committee and if approved by the board, Pollio said they’ll move as quickly as possible to get people hired, trained and in the schools by Fall 2020.

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