By a vote of 35-0, the State Senate on Friday passed an important piece of legislation that hopefully will better protect Kentucky’s school children.
The School Safety and Resiliency Act – the top priority of the General Assembly leadership in the 2019 session – is aimed at preventing or lessening the impact of deadly violence at schools.
The bill moves on to the Kentucky House where a nearly-identical bill is being considered by the Education Committee.
Senate Bill 1, if and when enacted this year and funded in the 2020-22 biennial budget, would create a state school safety marshal with broad powers similar to those of the state fire marshal.
SB1 also would allow schools to expand the use of school resource officers, the city police officers and sheriff’s deputies assigned to law enforcement duties in local school districts.
SB 1 would require one counselor with mental health training for every 250 students in a school. At least 60 percent of their time would be used for counseling duties.
An anonymous school safety tip line would be established statewide, Also, school districts would be encouraged to seek charitable donations to finance security- related expenses.
Kentucky’s tragic history of fatal shootings at public schools goes back to 1993 when a teacher and a custodian were killed in 1993 at East Carter High School.
Three students died in 1997 at Heath High School and two more last year at Marshall County High School.
With several parts of the bill tied to more state money, the most critical step in making our schools safer for everyone will be the next state budget.
Sen. Max Wise, chair of the Senate Education Committee, and Sen. Christian Mc-Daniel, chair of Senate Appropriations and Revenue, have pledged to work together to make sure the new money is secured.
Wise told the news media that the General Assembly must make sure the new safety law doesn’t become an unfunded mandate for cash-strapped school districts.
SB 1 was developed with broad input from educators and public safety representatives and legislators from both parties.
We commend the Kentucky Senate for recognizing that the safety of our schools is too important to get ensnarled in partisan politics.