JCPS among only 7 districts in state without armed school resource officers, map shows

Legislators accuse JCPS of failing to comply with laws requiring school resource officers to be armed.
Published: Aug. 19, 2021 at 8:46 PM EDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2021 at 12:31 AM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As members of the Kentucky Legislature accuse JCPS of not being in compliance with state law requiring armed school resource officers at schools, a map shows all but seven counties in Kentucky already have them.

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School resource officers are not in place in every Kentucky school district.
School resource officers are not in place in every Kentucky school district.(WAVE 3 News source)

“Why are we rolling the dice with our kids’ safety here?” the former commissioner of the Department of Criminal Justice Training (DOCJT) Alex Payne asked. “Why?”

Payne was the deputy commissioner in Marshall County when tragedy struck in 2018. Two students were shot and killed in the Marshall County High School, and another 14 were injured.

Payne arrived shortly after.

“It was horrific,” he said. “I don’t know if there is anything worse.”

When Payne became the commissioner of DOCJT, he was tasked with making schools safer. He appointed Ben Wilcox, Kentucky’s first school security marshal, to ensure adherence to the School Safety and Resiliency Act (Senate Bill 1), which passed in March of this year.

Wilcox and his staff began assessing every school in the state. A school risk assessment checklist was created to outline things like locks on doors, entry procedures, mental health counselors, and armed school resources officers (SROs).

But SROs are something JCPS can’t check off the list after removing them in August of 2019 amid criticism over officers in schools. Chris Kolb, James Craig, and Corrie Shull of the JCPS Board of Education voted for their removal. Chairwoman Diane Porter, Linda Duncan and Chris Brady voted to keep them, but the other three votes were enough to end the contracts with the agencies supplying the SROs.

“The last thing you want to see is when you send your kid to school and they don’t come back,” Payne said. “And SROs are a big part of that.”

Since the Safe Schools & Resiliency Act was passed in 2019 requiring armed SROs, all but seven counties in Kentucky have already hired them. JCPS isn’t one of them.

Starting with the first day of class, WAVE 3 News has reported guns in schools and large fights, which Payne considers red flags.

Payne has 25 years of experience in workplace and school violence. Having witnessed a tragedy, he said he wants the JCPS Board of Education to consider their actions.

“Did you do everything that you could have done and should have done to prevent this?” Payne said. “And if the answer to that is no, then people need to be held accountable.”

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