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Former SROs, community leaders say new JCPS security plan ‘not perfect,’ but promising

Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 7:00 PM EST
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As Jefferson County Public Schools’ superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio officially begins the process of implementing a new safety and security plan for the district, he’s expecting and encouraging feedback to come from all across the city.

Pollio’s proposal would divide the responsibilities of the traditional School Resource Officer (SRO) between Safety Administrators (SA) and School Safety Officers (SSO).

According to Pollio’s plan, School Administrators would be unarmed civilians assigned to each middle and high school in the district. Their main task would be to foster positive school culture by building relationships with students, a culture the traditional SRO was supposed to create.

SAs would report primarily to the school’s principal.

The School Safety Officers would be armed, sworn law enforcement officers who would not be stationed in the schools, but instead would patrol a three to seven school cluster in a specific geographical zone of the city.

The SSOs would report primarily to the Security & Investigations department, but would also stay in contact with the SAs if a situation needed their attention.

Pollio told reporters Tuesday night he and his team discussed the safety proposal with several organizations and community leaders before presenting it to the school board.

The organizations he mentioned were the Louisville Urban League, NAACP, LaCasita, No More Red Dots, PTA, Cities United, AROS, ACLU, LMPD, Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, Community Missionary Church, Metro government, Rajon Rondo Foundation, UofL, Advisory Council for Racial Equity and JCTA Black Teacher Caucus.

WAVE 3 News reached out to several of those organizations, asking for their feedback.

Dr. Eddie Woods, founder of No More Red Dots, told WAVE 3 News he was encouraged by the initial proposal, but believed more could be done to proactively keep guns out of students’ hands.

“I would’ve liked to seen it be a little bit more community outreach nature to kind of get some input on situations that might involved conflict and or the potential for gunplay,” Woods said.

Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds believes the plan, though imperfect, is one that could check a lot of boxes. Reynolds believes the SAs can serve as trusted adults who can make a difference in the children’s lives.

“[Students] need adults to talk with,” Reynolds said. “They need adults to reach out to. So this plan brings additional adults into the building. And I think it’s really a good plan. I do. It’s not perfect; nothing is, but we can work with it. What we need to do is get adults into those buildings that can respond, that can react, but they can also proactively listen and pay attention to the needs of the students, the needs of the teachers and plan, and plan.”

Reynolds also believes this proposal serves the community better than what lawmakers in Frankfort proposed in SB1.

WAVE 3 News also reached out to former School Resource Officers to learn more about how the new proposal differs from their jobs.

Troy Armstrong, current St. Matthews Police officer and former SRO at Waggener High School, told WAVE 3 News he was concerned the split responsibilities between SA and SSO could once again force students to view officers negatively.

“I would hope [the execution of the plan is] more the relationship side than the security side,” Armstrong said. “The officer that would be responding to anything serious that’s patrolling is going to be the bad guy. The armed officer’s going to be coming in and he’s not going to have a relationship with those students, and having that position without no relationship with the students, I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

William Willhoite, a former SRO at Fern Creek High School, believes the proposal is a step in the right direction. Though worried about its possible execution, he believes the proposal is better than what the district is currently doing.

“I think it’s a good proposal,” Willhoite said. “I think there will be some growing pains with it. I think if it works out well, which it looks like on paper that it can, I think it’s a positive thing.”

In an attempt to get more feedback, Pollio hosted a virtual town hall meeting Wednesday to further inform the public.

Pollio said he will take the feedback and incorporate it into his final plan, which he hopes to have the board vote on by the end of January.

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