JCPS safety officer plan doesn’t follow state law, state representative says
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The Jefferson County School Board approved a plan Thursday night that will put armed, sworn law enforcement officers back on JCPS campus, but some say it’s not good enough.
JCPS will hire 30 school safety officers, or SSOs, to patrol several schools outside in a geographical area and respond to schools as needed. The plan will cost the district $6 million per year.
However, retired Iroquois High School teacher Mike Beard told WAVE News the plan is inadequate.
“I don’t understand what the difference is between having 30 officers driving around the whole county at different times responding to different things,” Beard said. “That almost just seems like we’d be better served by calling the police for those runs to the building.”
When Beard was teaching, there were SROs patrolling JCPS halls. He said aside from keeping students safe, one of the most important roles of an SRO is interacting with students, which will likely not happen under the JCPS SSO plan.
“It’s also important to build relationships with those students that may not have good relationships, or maybe never had a relationship at all with a police officer other than maybe a bad incident,” Beard said.
Rep. Kevin Bratcher (R-District 29) went further to say JCPS’s plan doesn’t follow Kentucky law. The Kentucky School Safety and Resiliency Act, passed in March 2019, requires school districts to have at least one SRO assigned to each individual school unless funding or personnel wouldn’t allow it. 57% of Kentucky school districts do not have assigned SROs, according to a survey by the Office of the State School Security Marshal.
“It’s a great first step, and I commend (JCPS) for what they’re doing,” Bratcher said. “It’s still not state law though.”
Bratcher told WAVE he would prefer the SSOs to patrol inside the schools rather than entering the building only when there is an emergency.
“We need somebody there that’s a part of the system, a part of the staff, and that was the whole intent of the Safety Act is to embed safety into the system, so if something, God forbid happens it can be squashed immediately,” Bratcher said.
Next week, Bratcher plans to introduce additional substitute language to the law which would require school districts to make steps toward assigning an SRO to each individual school if lack of funding and personnel were issues.
“Security is a big part of our life, unfortunately,” Bratcher said. “I wish it wasn’t so but it is, and the bigger the system, the more security you need.”
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