LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – A Jefferson County Public Schools board committee worked toward developing what its force of school safety officers would look like Monday, but a new bill introduced in Frankfort could force their hand on parts of that final decision.
Republican Sen. Max Wise said he wanted to be clear when introducing Senate Bill 8; it would make it so that all school districts in Kentucky would require armed school resource officers.
“Senate Bill 8 will further define that a school resource officer’s primary job function is to work with youth in school settings and that SROs shall be armed with a firearm,” Wise told WAVE 3 News.
He also said the bill was prompted by a debate in the state’s largest school district.
"We have seen a concern, especially as it relates to one public school district, the largest one in the state, the Jefferson County Public Schools,” Wise said, “of having difficulty of having security within their schools as it relates to SROs and not arming those SROs.”
Monday night, an hour after Wise introduced the bill in a floor speech at the state capitol, a JCPS committee met to shape its school safety force in an already scheduled work session.
Specifics, including how officers will be trained and whether they’ll be armed, are set to be hammered out starting next week but were still brought up by some attending Monday’s meeting.
In the past, board members have debated whether officers should have guns, but last month JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said the district was leaning toward arming officers.
When asked about the filing of Senate Bill 8 on Monday night, Pollio said he doesn’t know much yet but isn’t surprised.
"I was anticipating it as being a possibility,” Pollio told WAVE 3 News. “From what I know, I think our legislature was clear in Senate Bill 1 (2019) about what they're looking for in school resource officers.”
In past interviews, he said officers are set to be in schools by next fall.
JCPS will begin to lay out its standard operating procedures for school safety officers next week.
Robert Bornstein is in a Facebook group of parents and others that tracks reports of guns in JCPS schools. He has two kids in those classrooms and a wife who teaches for JCPS.
He said he was initially upset that LMPD SROs were let go in the first place.
"I was very disappointed when they cancelled the contract with the SROs," Bornstein said. "I thought SROs were doing an admirable job. In fact, they almost assuredly stopped one tragedy at Valley High School."
When it comes to the newly-filed legislation, he said he ultimately doesn’t disagree with arming officers.
"I personally don't have an issue with security forces being armed, provided they're highly trained," he said. "We're in a world were invasions into our schools are real, ALICE drills are happening on a regular basis. So, we shouldn't pretend that we don't need security forces."
He said he would like the district to be able to make that decision on its own though.
“I just don’t want that edict coming down from Frankfort,” Bornstein said. “What might be good for Paducah, might not be good for Pikeville.”