The Jefferson County School Board voted unanimously Thursday night to expand the district’s police presence and bring armed school resource officers to the district for the first time since 2019.
The security plan will add 30 “School Security Officers,” or SSOs. They are armed law enforcement with a state “School Resource Officer” certification. This means they have at least 40 hours of special training to serve school communities. The JCPS plan would require 60 hours of annual training for its officers.
Each officer would be assigned three to seven middle and high schools. Each of the three alternative schools in the district will have its own agent.
JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said the SSOs would not regularly patrol the hallways, but would stay close by to respond to crimes and emergencies.
“What we don’t want though…is necessarily for them to stand in the cafeteria, guard a cafeteria and perform acts of discipline that an administrator should perform,” Pollio said.
In addition to the 30 armed police officers, JCPS would also hire a “security administrator” for each middle and high school to build positive relationships in the building and keep tabs on security issues. Elementary schools will share security administrators among a few schools.
Pollio said neither the officers nor the security administrator will be responsible for student discipline.
District 6 board member Corrie Shull supported the plan and called it a “compromise”.
“I think it’s something everyone can support — something that will keep our buildings safe and something that won’t contribute to the school-to-jail pipeline,” Shull said.
Shull was among a number of members who voted to drop contracts with local law enforcement agencies for SROs in 2019 due to concerns about how black and brown students were being monitored.
Since then, the district has come under pressure from Frankfurt state lawmakers and some local leaders and parents to bring armed police back into school buildings.
JCPS attorney Kevin Brown said he believes the plan “meets that standard” set out in the School Safety Act of 2019, which required every K-12 public school to have a responsible for school resources, “as funds and personnel become available”.
District 5 board member Linda Duncan voted for the plan but said she didn’t think it went far enough.
“I think officers need to be steps away from the violent threat, not blocks from the violent threat,” Duncan said.
District 4 member Joe Marshall also voted in favor of the plan, but expressed frustration with the pressure on schools to deal with violence that occurs outside school walls.
After the shooting death of 16-year-old Tyree Smith at her bus stop, Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields asked JCPS to expand its police presence.
“A lot of our students live in places where they don’t feel safe,” Marshall said. That is why, he said, students sometimes bring weapons to school.
“It’s not coming from a place where they seek to harm,” he said.
When members voted, the VanHoose Education Center meeting room was empty except for reporters and a handful of district employees. It was a usual sight for a vote on one of the most contentious issues for the district. The board has not allowed public comment since an October meeting, where a comment about ORS turned into a shouting match and law enforcement became concerned about the violence.
Pollio said he thought the council had allowed a “significant amount of public input” and pointed to the district-hosted discussion groups and the district’s virtual town hall where viewers could post questions or comments about proposal.
Pollio said all 66 security administrators will be in place by the start of the next school year, and the district will begin advertising school police stations “pretty quickly.”