House committee introduces bill that would require districts to seek approval to waive SROs – 89.3 WFPL News Louisville
The House Education Committee introduced a bill on Tuesday that would require the marshal of public school safety to approve a district’s decision not to hire a police officer for each school campus.
Jefferson County Republican Rep. Kevin Bratcher says his bill, House Bill 63, clarifies the intent of the Safe and Resilient Schools Act, 2019. Passed in reaction to fatal shooting at Marshall County High School in 2018, it asked districts to assign a school resource officer, or SRO, to each campus “as funds and qualified personnel become available.”
Bratcher presented the proposal on Tuesday after the The Jefferson County School Board has adopted a plan for its 155 schools to share 30 school resource officers, or SROs.
“It’s a great first step,” Bratcher said of the Jefferson County Public Schools ORS plan. But, he added, the “original intent” of the School Safety Bill “was to have an SRO on every school campus.”
The bill would require districts to report to the state when they don’t have enough funds or staff to put an SRO on every campus and get approval from the state school safety marshal. . Bratcher said the hope is that the state can later provide the funds.
Representative Ed Massey, a Boone County Republican and former school board member, welcomed the proposal. He cited his own academic research paper which he said suggested the introduction of ORS could help build trust between the police and the community.
“We as a state need to scale up and fund ORS in schools across our state, including Jefferson County,” Massey said.
Massey and several other committee members said they believed ORS was necessary to prevent school shootings, although research shows that school resource officers do not prevent such occurrences.
Opponents of the bill, including Democratic Rep. Lisa Willner, pointed out that the Marshall County High School had ORS at the time of its fatal 2018 shooting.
Louisville Urban League President Sadiqa Reynolds told the committee that schools need mental health practitioners and social workers, not law enforcement.
“If you’re talking about saving lives, that’s not the way to do it. And in fact, the data absolutely argues against it. Read a study – there are many who will tell you that,” she said.
She pointed a Hamline University 2021 Study of 133 school shootings. The researchers found that the presence of law enforcement was associated with an increase in casualties rather than a decrease.
Lyndon Pryor, director of engagement for the Louisville Urban League, pointed out to research this suggests that the introduction of police into schools results in the criminalization of student behaviors, especially for black students and other students of color.
“Simply put, ORS has been shown to be detrimental to healthy and productive learning environments. They tend to have little to no impact on actually reducing violent behavior,” he said.
The bill has rolled out of committee and is heading to the full House for consideration.
Reached for comment, JCPS spokesperson Mark Hebert sent a statement saying, “We appreciate that the sponsor of the bill recognizes the efforts of JCPS to keep our schools safe. We will continue to follow Kentucky school safety laws. »