JCPS Board of Education Sign

Jefferson County Public Schools Van Hoose Education Center on Newburg Road.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — The Jefferson County Board of Education is waiting for clarity from Kentucky lawmakers before moving forward with a plan to hire a new district-level security force.

Two bills before this year’s General Assembly could bring significant changes for Jefferson County Public Schools and other school districts across the state, JCPS officials told board members Tuesday.

The district had been crafting a plan to hire an internal security force throughout JCPS, but that’s on hold until officials have a better understanding of how legislation will fare in this year’s session.

“We didn’t think it was very prudent on our part to march forward with something that could either … be contradictory to the legislation or might slow down or fast track something that we potentially were trying to do,” JCPS Chief Operations Officer Michael Raisor said.

One piece of legislation, Senate Bill 1, would broaden the definition of who can be considered school resource officers and mandate that such officers get training specifically for how to work in school settings, among several other provisions, if passed. SB 1 would also require districts to hire at least one school resource officer for every school.

The other, Senate Bill 162, would make it easier for districts to hire retired police as school resource officers. That legislation would allow districts to hire retired law enforcement without requiring them to reimburse the Kentucky Retirement Systems for health coverage.

Stan Mullen, director of security and investigations for JCPS, said that could cost the district about $700 per retired police officer hired every month.

Raisor suggested using the 2019-20 school year “to analyze what’s been passed in the General Assembly and determine what that looks like for us at JCPS” in preparation for the 2020-21 school year. Raisor said the district is also looking at adding resources and increasing capacity for its internal security unit that’s already in place.

But some board members might take issue with that.

Chris Brady, who represents District 7, expressed frustration at the slow pace of creating a district-wide security force for schools in JCPS.

“If we truly care and want to put action behind our racial equity policy, we have to put the gas pedal down on creating our own security team,” Brady said. “I am very disappointed that we’re not further along in this process.”

Chris Kolb, the board’s vice chairman who represents District 2, has been critical of the district’s current use of school resource officers, but he also favors establishing a new team of officers to patrol JCPS schools.

Kolb said he supports a JCPS-employed security force because officers would ultimately answer to the district rather than various police agencies. The board, he said, “is heading in a really good direction.”

“I think we’re closer than a lot of people would think we are on the right approach to school safety,” Kolb said.

July will be a critical month since that’s when current contracts for school resource officers are up for renewal, he said. Kolb said he would oppose extending those contracts.

“That could be a point where we do have some differences of opinion on the board,” Kolb said.

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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