New Kentucky school safety bill would require all safety officers to carry a gun
FRANKFORT – All school districts in Kentucky would have armed school resource officers under legislation unveiled Monday in the Kentucky Senate.
Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, said in a floor speech that the requirement for the officers to carry a gun was a major change in a comprehensive school safety bill that lawmakers approved last year but did not fund.
Wise presented Senate Bill 8 Monday to his colleagues and noted that last year’s bill “did not go down the path of arming teachers with firearms.”
But, he said, “we have seen a concern” in the state’s largest school district — Jefferson County — of not arming school safety officers. Safety officers in Fayette County Public Schools already carry guns.
His bill, said Wise, will define a school resource officers’ primary job function as working with youth in school settings and being armed with a firearm. He noted that a majority of all school districts have armed officers but the new bill would require it.
Wise said the bill would put one or more resource officers in every school campus where there are one or more school buildings instead of in every school.
The officers would qualify for state death benefits in the line of duty, said Wise.
The bill also would shift responsibility for active shooter training at schools from the state Department of Education to the Department of Criminal Justice.
The overall bill is designed to improve school security through more staff, an increased focus on the mental health needs of students and more oversight of school safety on the state and local level.
After a deadly 2018 shooting at Marshall County High School, the General Assembly created a bipartisan group to improve school safety. The group traveled Kentucky listening to teachers, students, parents, law enforcement and mental health professionals.
Funding for the bill is to be taken up in the next two-year budget that lawmakers and Gov. Andy Beshear will craft this year.
The Kentucky School Boards Association has said school districts will need about $18 million to improve safety features at school buildings and at least $121 million more each year for resource officers and counselors to comply with the legislation.
Senate Bill 8 will be one of the priorities of this year’s law-making session, said Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester.
Other “priority” Senate bills filed Monday were SB 6, which would prevent legislators from immediately moving to another state government job and increasing their pension; SB 7, which would strip school councils of the power to hire principals; and SB 9, which would prohibit the abortion of born-alive infants.
By Jack Brammer