Kentucky school districts continue making progress toward a long-running policy goal of assigning law enforcement officers to school campuses, Gov. Andy Beshear said Thursday.
With children starting a new school term, the Democratic governor offered a preview of an upcoming annual report from the state school security marshal’s office.
“As governor, but more importantly as a dad, I know this is one of the top issues on parents’ minds right now,” Beshear said at his weekly news conference.
The report will show a 33% increase in schools with a full-time school resource officer on campus since the start of last school year, the governor said. That number is expected to continue rising.
In 2019, Kentucky lawmakers passed bipartisan school safety legislation that was intended to bolster police protection and counseling. It was a response to the 2018 shooting at Marshall County High School in western Kentucky that killed two students.
Lawmakers have revisited the school safety issue in recent sessions. In 2020, Beshear signed a bill requiring that law officers carry weapons when assigned to provide security at schools. Two years later, a follow-up measure that won passage stated that each school campus should have an officer. If districts couldn’t comply because of insufficient funding or law enforcement understaffing, they should work with the state school security marshal in trying to achieve the goal.
The upcoming school safety report will show that there are 685 school resource officers employed by Kentucky public schools, the most in state history, the governor said Thursday. Since passage of the 2019 legislation, the number of full-time school resource officers has increased by 66%, he said.
“We will always have more work to do, but we have made incredible strides in improving school safety,” Beshear said.
The report also will show that 99% of schools are in compliance with access control standards required by law, the governor said.
Assigning officers to schools is part of a comprehensive approach to school safety that includes mental health services, threat assessment teams and suicide prevention, state School Security Marshal Ben Wilcox said Thursday. Another component is having a trusted adult available for students, he said.
“It’s very important for us to have our school resource officers in our schools — there to be protectors but also for being that trusted adult,” Wilcox said at the news conference.