(The Center Square) – Kentucky lawmakers hope they have already have taken steps that can help avoid a tragedy such as took place in Nashville, Tennessee, on Monday.
On Friday of last week, legislation was signed into law allowing parochial and other private schools to develop pacts with local law enforcement agencies or the Kentucky State Police to have school resource officers on their campuses. House Bill 540, sponsored by state Rep. Killian Timoney, R-Nicholasville, was signed by Gov. Andy Beshear.
In Tennessee on Monday, a shooting at Christian elementary school left three children, three adults and the shooter dead.
On Friday, Beshear called Kentucky a national leader in ensuring school safety.
“Our schools are safe and will continue to be safe because every day we will make sure every resource possible is given to our schools so that Kentucky’s kids – our leaders of tomorrow – have a safe learning environment to thrive, grow and reach their dreams,” he said.
The bill puts private schools on equal footing with Kentucky’s public school systems. It passed unanimously in both chambers.
Timoney, who worked as an educator before taking an administrative position with Fayette County Public Schools, said in a statement that he’s worked on school safety issues in his full-time role.
“It was very important that one key facet to our work was the connectedness we had with our skilled law enforcement officers in the community,” he said. “This bill will allow our parochial schools to not compromise on the incredible standard we have implemented.”
Resource officers, proponents say, not only can prevent crimes from happening on campus, but they can also help foster a strong relationship between local law enforcement and the communities they protect. Being on campus also means they can directly mentor students, too.
Last year, after Beshear signed a similar bill that required public school districts to have at least one full-time school resource officer on each campus, provided they had the funding to cover it, the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky questioned the decision. While saying 2022’s House Bill 63 may have been “well-intentioned,” the group’s spokesman, Samuel Crankshaw, argued those officers arrest more Black and disabled students and that a better use of resources would be to employ more counselors, social workers and health care professionals to address students’ needs.