The requirement that all Kentucky schools have a School Resource Officer, or SRO, by Aug. 1 fell drastically short.
Kentucky’s School Security Marshal Ben Wilcox released the 2021-2022 School Risk Assessment Report last week. While Wilcox touted improvements in all of Kentucky’s 173 school districts, he didn’t address that less than half of Kentucky schools have an SRO.
“We need to work on having an SRO, by law, on every campus in the state of Kentucky,” Wilcox said in a video released with the report, though he did not address the number of SROs in his video.
The report shows that only 573 schools have an SRO in Kentucky, or 44.86%. On the contrary, 703 schools, or 55.14%, don’t have an officer.
Wilcox’s office said the numbers have increased and are changing daily, but wouldn’t release specifics.
During the summer, 19 students and two adults were shot and killed at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, reigniting debate on gun control and school safety.
Lawmakers at various levels of government have grappled with how to respond. In Kentucky, Rep. Kevin Bratcher (R-Louisville) introduced House Bill 63 — an extension of the 2019 School Safety and Resiliency Act — which mandates all schools in Kentucky have an SRO in place by Aug. 1.
“The School Safety and Resiliency Act provides a commonsense approach to building security, mental health advocacy, emergency planning, law enforcement engagement, and staff training,” Wilcox said. “While our compliance numbers are high, we must continue to work to fill the gap to 100% compliance. Our goal is always the safest learning environment for our children.”
But the bill didn’t have a funding mechanism, and now schools are dealing with an SRO requirement that doesn’t include a clear path to pay for it.
However, since Beshear signed HB 63 into law, there has been a 21% increase in SROs, according to a release from the Office of the State School Security Marshal.
In some cases, cities and school districts are finding ways to share the cost, but there is no framework spelled out in the law.
“If sufficient funds and qualified personnel are not available for this purpose for every campus, the local board of education shall fulfill the requirements of this subsection on a per-campus basis, as approved in writing by the state school security marshal, until a certified school resource officer is assigned to and working on-site, full-time on each campus in the district,” the law states.