JCPS superintendent answers questions, talks school safety after Texas mass shooting

Jefferson County Public Schools will unveil a new school security plan for the start of the 2022-2023 school year.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:04 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - As law enforcement officials continue to uncover more details about the mass school shooting in Texas, school districts across the country have begun to evaluate their own safety plans.

Jefferson County Public School Superintendent Marty Pollio talked to reporters on Wednesday about the district’s school security plan.

Starting in August, JCPS will break the security responsibility up between School Safety Administrators (SSAs) and School Safety Officers (SSOs).

Unarmed security administrators would report directly to school principals and would act as relationship builders, fostering positive school culture and developing relationships with students. The plan is to hire 66 of them, each earning $74,000 per year.

School security officers will be armed, sworn law enforcement officers, similar to school resource officers.

The main difference between an SSO and an SRO is that JCPS SSOs will work from outside schools unless there is a threat, and those officers will cover multiple schools in a given area. JCPS intends to hire 15 of them for $55,000 per year.

WAVE News asked Pollio if after Tuesday’s mass shooting in Texas, he believed armed officers should be in every building.

“Well, first and foremost, I want to say this,” Pollio said. “I think this is a complex issue that goes beyond what the school system can do. So, I think our plan around school officers, school security officers, SSOs that will be armed and be available for schools next year, 30 schools, I think is a major step forward for us. We will have armed officers available for intruders like this in JCPS schools. We will have safety administrators inside of the schools. So I think that I don’t see a time or place in our current structure with law enforcement that we will ever be able to have 155 armed police officers.”

Pollio also told reporters he believes a piece of the blame falls on the easy access children have to guns, something he knows JCPS has seen its fair share of.

WAVE News has reported 24 guns found at JCPS schools this year.

“So is there anything the schools can [do], yep,” Pollio said. “We’re implementing a plan I think that can reduce that. What can eliminate it, or at least do greater than the schools, is we get access to guns off of our streets and we have some sensible gun laws in our society.”

Another question people have raised since the Texas shooting is how the shooter was able to gain access inside the school building.

While the country waits for that answer, Pollio gave more context on how JCPS handles visitor entries.

“We have really tried to improve the entry process into schools as a visitor wants to come in,” Pollio said. “So [that means] showing ID, ringing the bell to make sure they’re granted entrance through a locked door. Making sure all of our doors are locked and following those policies and procedures. But without a doubt, the beginning of school and the end of the school day are the toughest to secure when you’re talking about 1,000 students walking into a building.”

Pollio ultimately told reporters he believes mass shootings reveal issues in society that are bigger than teachers and schools.

“Once again, I’ll go back to it,” Pollio said. “We continue to ask superintendents what the answer is to access to guns as I stand in front of you right now. Meanwhile, yes, superintendents are responsible for what happens at the school doors, but I think we’ve we really got to take a look at what’s happening outside of the school doors if we’re going to end this problem.”

Pollio said all teachers and students undergo active shooter training each year, in accordance with state laws.

He said if parents suspect any “red flags,” parents should call their children’s principals or school counselors.

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