Kentucky school safety bill passes unanimously in Senate

FRANKFORT, KY — A bill that aims to improve safety in Kentucky schools has unanimously passed the state Senate.

Senate Bill 1, also known as the School Safety and Resiliency Act, received 35 “Yea” votes on the Senate floor Friday morning. The House will take up the legislation next.

“It’s a culmination that led us here today. A listening session of eight months of work done, not by myself, but the work done of many others. Countless others. Members of the school safety working group, participants who are legislators, educators, mental health professionals, law enforcement, students,” said Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, the lead sponsor of the bill. “No one was shut out of having comments and feedback as it relates to our most precious resources, and that being the children of our commonwealth.”

Sen. Max Wise is the lead sponsor of the bill.

Friday’s passing comes after the Senate Education Committee advanced an amended version of the bill Thursday. The bill is supported by the parents of Bailey Holt and Preston Cope, the two students killed in the shooting at Marshall County High School on Jan. 23, 2018.

The bill calls for the creation of a new position — the state school security marshal, whose job would be to enforce safety compliance similar to the state fire marshal enforcing fire safety. The state school security marshal would report annually about findings and recommendations to the Kentucky Center for School Safety.

The bill would also require the development of a school security risk assessment tool, and school superintendents would be required to complete the risk assessment each year. If the risk assessment is not completed, additional staff training would be mandatory.

Under the bill, each school district must appoint a school safety coordinator, who would complete training within six months of the appointment. The school safety coordinator would then designate threat assessment teams at each school in the district. The school safety coordinator must also create policies and procedures “for an all-hazards approach to school safety,” and ensure that each campus in the district is toured at least once every school year.

Sen . Danny Carroll was part of the working group that helped craft the bill.

In addition, the bill calls for at least one school resource officer to be assigned at each school within a district as funds and qualified personnel become available. Each year, superintendents would be required to report to the Center for School Safety on the number of SROs in the their districts and how they are placed.

Furthermore, the bill would require each school district to provide a school counselor for every 250 students by July 1, 2021, or when funds and qualified staff become available. It would also require districts to teach suicide prevention awareness to students in person, by live streaming, or via video recording. Staff members who directly interact with students would be required to undergo at least one hour of training each year on how to respond to an active shooter.

The bill would also encourage sheriffs, police chiefs, and Kentucky State Police to collaborate with local school districts on policies and procedures.

The Department of Education would be required to make an anonymous reporting tool be available to each school district. The information reported would be sent immediately to the school district administration and local law enforcement. The Department of Education would also have to provide comprehensive training on the reporting tool.

Although lawmakers praised the bill Friday, Sen. Julian Carroll, D-Frankfort, expressed concerns about its feasibility.

“I really commend the members who were on this school commission because they’ve done an excellent job,” said Carroll. “But our real failure is to address the funds with which to accomplish the purpose set out by this legislation.”

Wise acknowledged the bill is not a finished product.

“It still has many more shapes and forms that it may continue to take based on input that we receive,” said Wise.

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Paducah, who was part of the working group that helped craft the bill, said he’s heard nothing but positive feedback about it. But he said real change starts from within.

“The solution to this lies in the hearts of men and women. Children throughout the state,” said Carroll. “We have to change the way we look at each other. We have to once again develop relationships, respect each other.”

As for funding, lawmakers can determine that when they put together the state budget during next year’s legislative session.

Click here to read the full Senate Committee Substitute 1 version of the bill.

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