LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – With less than a week before Jefferson County Public Schools begins the new school year, Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio spoke with WDRB's Candyce Clifft about some of the issues the district faces.
On Wednesday, the Jefferson County School Board voted not to renew the SRO contracts with Jeffersontown and Shively Police and the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department. The vote, which was split 3-3, failed to pass a contract that would have employed 11 SROs at a cost of $375,000. Seventeen SROs were removed earlier in the year when Louisville Metro Police pulled them due to budget cuts.
In the wake of that decision, Dr. Pollio said it's time for the district to make moves to internalize security.
"Clearly we were recommending our SRO contracts to be passed for this year," he said. "Now a big part of our plans that we've been moving forward is to have our own internal security force. The vast majority of our schools have never had SROs. As a matter of fact, about 128-130 schools have never had SROs. In line with Senate Bill 1, the only way we're going to get there is to create our own security force, like most major cities have done -- school districts and large cities have done.
"As a result of the vote on Tuesday night, we're just going to have to move faster, and we're going to move quickly to do there."
"I understand national some of the concerns around SROs, but we're definitely going to build our own internal force and move very quickly to do that," he added.
Pollio said the district is moving nighttime security officers to daytime roles to fill the void at the schools that did have SROs.
"Clearly they're there for any type of major incident that might occur," he said. "As a principal and as a superintendent, you lay awake at night concerned about any type of intruder coming into the school. Clearly that is the most important role. And as a parent – I mean, I'm a JCPS dad and you're a JCPS mom, and so we're all concerned about school safety."
But, Pollio said, it's not all about security. Sometimes it's about giving students someone in authority to talk to.
"The foundation of an SRO program is to build relationships with kids as well and to be an educator," he said. "I've been a principal with an SRO and we know that there's a lot of roles, but it's not just that, but it's also the relationship piece with kids."
Pollio said it's not just about keeping the school secure. He's also taking steps that students who are going through difficult times have someone to guide them through it.
"Nationally the statistics show about 25 percent of school-age children have some type of mental health need that many times goes unmet," he said. "So we've added a mental health professional at every single school in JCPS and that's a huge part of school safety as well, is to address the needs of our children in this entire community."
It's a move Pollio says will pay off in the long run.
"I think we're stepping up to do that for our kids and that will have a huge impact on school safety."
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