Louisville Courier Journal
Published 5:04 PM EST Jan 13, 2020
All police officers in Kentucky schools would be required to be armed under newly filed legislation — a mandate that, if passed, would supersede the desires of some Jefferson County Board of Education members to keep guns out of schools.
The bill, filed Monday by Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, would amend Kentucky's 2019 school safety law, which called for a trained resource officer at each of the state's nearly 1,500 public schools.
Last year's school safety law did not clarify whether school police needed to carry a weapon.
A state-level push for armed officers comes as the board for Jefferson County Public Schools, the state's largest district, crafts its plans for a district-managed police force.
The seven-member board has remained divided over whether to arm officers, with at least three members indicating in December that they had not made up their minds on the issue.
Board members have previously cited the law's vague language while considering whether or not to arm officers in its proposed security team.
Earlier: 'Surprise,' 'disappointment' follow JCPS board move to drop SROs
Under JCPS' most recent proposal, though, officers would have handguns in shoulder holsters hidden under a jacket. They would also carry batons, not for striking, but for "blocking people," district officials said in December.
Joe Marshall, who represents south Louisville, said he wasn't sold on the idea. James Craig, a lawyer representing the East End, suggested the decision be left to principals.
Minerva Virola, the district official developing the plan, said arming officers is important because "we want someone who is able to go toward the bad threat."
Board members are scheduled to discuss the plan again on Jan. 28 before a potential vote on Feb. 11. According to the most recent timeline, officers would be in a dozen JCPS high schools by next school year.
Districts do not have to meet the school safety law until its mandates are funded by the state. Lawmakers have stressed funding the measures, which are estimated to cost $120 million statewide, will be a top budget priority this year.
Schools would also be required to provide mental health professionals for students and increase the physical security of their campuses under the law.
Background: With JCPS police force delayed, board mulls whether to arm officers
This story is developing and will be updated.
Reporter Deborah Yetter contributed to this story.
Mandy McLaren: 502-582-4525; [email protected]; Twitter: @mandy_mclaren. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today: courier-journal.com/mandym.