LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Board of Education could vote later this month to create new safety administrator and school safety officer positions as part of the district’s new school safety plans.

A proposal presented during Tuesday’s board meeting calls for JCPS to hire safety administrators at every middle and high school and a team of armed school safety officers to patrol between three and seven schools in certain geographic zones based around high schools.

The officers, who will be sworn law enforcement with arrest powers, would primarily work from their vehicles to respond quickly to schools in their coverage areas, JCPS Superintendent Marty Pollio said during his presentation. Safety administrators and principals would have direct contact with officers, and Pollio said he expected safety officers would respond to situations at schools "within minutes."

Both positions would be required to undergo 60 hours of district training every year in areas like de-escalation, restorative practices, implicit bias, safe crisis management and trauma-informed care. Officers would need another 40 hours of annual training in state-mandated programs for school resource officers and Peace Officer Professional Standards certification, according to the presentation.

Pollio said initial training for both positions would focus on mental health services, substance abuse and treatment, working with Child Protective Services, and other resources for students and families.

Safety administrators would be tasked with managing school-level safety issues like handling and assessing threats, building trusting relationships with students and staff, and helping develop positive school climates while school safety officers would respond to emergencies and crimes, according to Pollio’s proposal. Neither role would handle student discipline, Pollio said.

Tuesday’s JCPS board meeting was the first that members have publicly scrutinized Pollio’s security proposal. A virtual town hall for public feedback on the plan is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday on the district’s YouTube channel.

The board may consider organizational charts and job descriptions for security personnel around Jan. 26, Pollio said. The district expects to hire 30 total school safety officers and already has 20 sworn law enforcement officers on staff, he said.

If approved by the board, Pollio believes part of the district’s security plans can be implemented this school year “for those that are already officers and trained.”

“The clock's ticking, and we've got to get going on hiring so that we can train,” Pollio said. “I'm not saying it definitely has to be at the end of January, but we definitely will need to move.”

The proposal is estimated to cost between $4 million and $5 million annually, he said.

Expected costs for the security program, if enacted, may rise. Board members discussed adding safety administrators to elementary schools and hiring more than one at middle and high schools that need more support.

"I'm hearing from elementary schools who feel that they need some help, maybe through a security administrator," said board member Corrie Shull, the board's vice chair who represents District 6. "Is that something that you're looking to put into this plan?"

Hiring safety administrators at every elementary school would prove difficult, but Pollio said he was open to gradually expanding the scope of the district's proposed security plan.

"We want to make sure we if we look at elementary schools we do it equitably, but we are open to that and open to growing it as we are successful," he said.

District administrators have solicited feedback from the Louisville Urban League, NAACP, ACLU, LMPD, Louisville Metro Government, University of Louisville, Jefferson County Teachers Association’s Black Teacher Caucus, Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools and other groups, according to Pollio and the district’s proposal.

JCPS studied Fayette County Public Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District, Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Atlanta Public Schools, Baltimore City Public Schools, Duval County Public Schools in Florida and Austin Independent School District in Texas as it formulated its plan, according to Tuesday’s presentation.

Kentucky’s largest school district has been without school resource officers since the 2019-20 school year after Louisville Metro pulled 17 LMPD officers from schools and a split board did not approve contracts with other local law enforcement entities for another 11 officers.

Talks of creating an internal security force were sidelined at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The district has recently faced criticism from LMPD Chief Erika Shields and others for lacking school resource officers.

Tuesday's meeting came a week after lawmakers returned to Frankfort for the 2022 legislative session. State law currently requires school districts to assign one or more armed resource officers to every school in their system as funding and qualified personnel become available, and a bill filed by Rep. Kevin Bratcher, R-Louisville, would remove those caveats.

"I think we need to do this, or this problem can be solved for us," said board member James Craig, who represents District 3.

Pollio said he believes the district's security proposal follows state law. Fayette County Public Schools and other districts take similar approaches to their assignment of security officers, he said.

"We will be assigning one to each school," he said. ".... It is going to be impossible to add another 600 law enforcement agents to 600 schools across the state right now, much less 155 for us."

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