On Tuesday night, Jefferson County Board of Education members will be presented with a proposal that would see armed law enforcement officers return to Kentucky’s largest school system for the first time since 2019.
According to an outline of the plan posted online alongside the Board of Education meeting’s agenda, the proposal calls for armed, sworn law enforcement officers who would each be responsible for patrolling between three to seven schools.
“‘School Safety Officers’ will serve a group of schools in a geographic area that aligns with a high school in order to have a quick response time,” a description in the proposal reads. “The officers will patrol their assigned schools and will be ready to respond to any who need help. The SSOs will primarily be in their cars in order to respond quickly to a school that needs them.”
An example in the document of the kind of assignment an officer could have included Ballard High School, neighboring Kammerer Middle School and nearby elementary schools.
The plan would also see each middle and high school assigned a safety administrator responsible for managing “safety related issues at the school,” building relationships with students and threat monitoring and assessment. Neither the school safety officers nor the safety administrators would be responsible for student discipline.
In addition to 40 hours annually of training required for school law enforcement officers under state law, armed JCPS school safety officers would receive an additional 60 hours of training every year. The supplementary JCPS training would include instruction on things like cross-cultural communication, de-escalation, restorative practices, trauma-informed care and bullying.
JCPS has been without armed law enforcement officers since 2019 after the Louisville Metro Police Department — which provided most of the program’s officers — pulled its officers, and the board of education voted against renewing contracts with other local law enforcement agencies. Since then, JCPS has relied on officers of its Security and Investigations Unit, who do not carry firearms.
Debate over law enforcement officers in JCPS schools intensified this year after Louisville Metro Police Department Chief Erika Shields called for the district to establish its own police force hours after a 16-year-old Eastern High School student, Tyree Smith, was shot and killed while waiting for his school bus in the West End in September.
A virtual town hall about the plan will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. via JCPS’ YouTube page.
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