School safety bill passes out of Senate panel
On the second anniversary of the Marshall County High School shooting that catalyzed the 2019 School Safety and Resiliency Act, a Senate committee heard legislation to add to the measure.
“It’s my pleasure to introduce Senate Bill 8 which many people are calling the School Safety and Resiliency Act II,” Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, said while testifying before today’s meeting of the Senate Education Committee. “I also want to thank all of those right now that are working across this commonwealth to help ensure safety within our public school walls.”
He said SB 8 addresses changes sought by educators, safety officers and mental health experts. A discussion of those changes dominated the committee’s meeting last week.
Wise, who sponsored SB 8 along with Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, said the bill would clarify the definition of a school resource officer (SRO) to allow a school superintendent to specify any individual to serve as a district’s school safety coordinator, clarify which school facilities are required to have SROs and to require that SROs be armed with a gun.
Additional safety provisions of SB 8 address who produces an active shooter training video, when classroom doors can be left unlocked and what constitutes terroristic threatening.
Mental health provisions of SB 8 specify that the goal is to have at least one school counselor per public school and to have at least one school counselor, or school-based mental health services provider, for every 250 students.
Senate President Robert Stivers II, R-Manchester, asked if Kentucky has the employee base to fill all of the mental health and safety positions needed to comply with the 2019 act and this year’s follow-up legislation.
Linda Tyree, past president of the Kentucky School Counselor Association, testified Kentucky could meet the demand for counselors. She added there were seven colleges across the state that prepare school counselors.
Lori Vogel of the Kentucky Association for School Social Work, who also testified, said there are enough social workers in Kentucky, but they would have to get a special certification to be in schools.
Wise added that it would require a long-term commitment by the General Assembly to provide funding for the additional mental health personnel in addition to security officers.
“This is going to have to be something we prioritized in future budgets too,” he said.
SB 8 passed out of the committee and now goes to the full Senate for consideration.