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JCPS working to hire school safety officers ahead of 2022-23 school year

Jefferson County Public Schools hopes to have all security positions filled by the next school year, in accordance with its new security plan.
Published: Jun. 17, 2022 at 4:35 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - Jefferson County Public Schools hope to have all security positions filled by the next school year, in accordance with its new security plan.

The plan puts an unarmed school safety administrator, or SSA inside every middle and high school and 30 armed school safety officers, or SSOs outside of buildings patrolling certain zones. So far, 50 people have applied for both job categories, and five applicants are certified police officers.

In order to become an SSO, an employee must achieve Peace Officer Professional Standards, or POPS certification. Thirteen members of the current JCPS security team are attending the 20 weeklong police academy to become POPS certified, according to the district.

“We think we have an opportunity to really redefine what policing in a school district looks like and how this can be a partnership to promote safety,” Chris Perkins, Chief Operations Officer of JCPS said.

Chief Perkins says they should be fully staffed but they will not all be sworn law enforcement officers by the time school starts. They will not be carrying guns and will not have the power to make arrests.

However, some believe the district’s plan is inadequate because it doesn’t put armed officers inside school buildings.

Former Iroquois High School teacher, Mike Beard told WAVE News he remembers when JCPS had armed school resource officers inside the schools and said it was a positive experience. He wants to see the district bring that plan back.

“These board members will say at all their meetings, they’ll talk about how important the safety of the students is to them, it’s their top priority, yet they’re not wanting these armed security officers inside the building where they need to be,” Beard said.

Beard isn’t the only person who believes this.

Kentucky lawmakers passed a law last legislative session requiring school districts to put an armed police officer inside every building or work toward that goal with the state’s help.

While JCPS may not be in compliance with the law, Perkins told WAVE News the state security marshal understands the challenges the district faces trying to comply with the law.

“I think the intent or the spirit of the law is to do that as funding and staffing allows,” Perkins said. “We can’t manifest people into positions, so we will grow this and build it as we can.”

Beard said the SSOs the district does manage to hire should be placed inside the buildings because the officers can more quickly mitigate danger if situations arise.

“If safety is your most important issue for your students, the state legislature shouldn’t have to legislate that you have to have an armed officer in your building, you should do that on your own, but they did have to do that, and they are still not following that instruction from the legislators,” Beard said. “They’re not following the law, they’re not putting an armed officer in the building.”

13 current JCPS security team members are POPs certified.

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