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School Resource Officer Bill aimed at increasing safety in schools

School Resource Officer Bill aimed at increasing safety in schools
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:21 PM EDT
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FRANKFORT, Ky. (WSAZ) - School districts say your students’ safety is the number one priority.

The shooting at an elementary school in Texas is on parents’ minds, including Ben Wilcox’s.

Wilcox is the father of a ninth and sixth-grader and a former school resource officer (SRO).

“If your child does not feel safer at school, that child will not learn, and we’ve got to make sure they feel safer,” Wilcox said.

With that experience, he knows it’s imperative to have a safety net. Soon, more police officers will be present in Kentucky Schools.

“The passing of House Bill 63 requires a school resource officer on every campus by August 1st, 2022. The passing of the school safety resiliency act also required the same thing, but this put a date on it,” Wilcox said.

The bill was signed into law at the end of this year’s regular session -- before the deadly mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

The bill’s requirements present challenges for many school districts. Wilcox said districts often say lack of funding and personnel are big obstacles. If districts cannot get the funding or staff requirements, they develop a plan with the Kentucky School Security Marshal’s office.

WSAZ surveyed school districts in Eastern Kentucky. Most school districts in our region have at least one school resource officer either contracted or employed within the district but will fall short of the requirements in August.

For example, Martin County does not have any SROs employed or contracted. However, in the fall, they will have five SROs to meet state requirements.

Superintendent Larry James said lack of personnel has been a big issue.

Wilcox believes it’s critical to fill the gaps.

“School systems are actively searching for SROs and ways to get them into buildings,” he said. “We’re seeing an increase, but we’re not there yet.”

More than half of Kentucky’s schools do not have a school resource officer currently, according to a report from the state school security marshal.

West Virginia state law does not require schools to have prevention resource officers. It’s a local decision left up to the county board to decide if and where SROs would be available.

It’s unclear if SROs are required in Ohio.

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