FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- As Jefferson County Public Schools prepares to create a new school safety force, the district is debating whether the officers should be armed.

But soon, JCPS may not have a choice.

Sen. Max Wise, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, has filed Senate Bill 8, which would require school resource officers across the state to carry guns. The massive school safety bill lawmakers passed in the 2019 session calls on school districts to hire more school resource officers, but it does not require them to be armed.

Wise, a Republican from Campbellsville, wants to change that.

“I think that's common sense," Wise said. “We're not going to give them a slingshot. We're not going to give them something else that's not going to be able to be there to help in a situation.”

Wise said, right now, in most school districts, school resource officers are armed.

JCPS is debating the issue, but Ben Wilcox, the state’s new school security marshal, told WDRB News it should not be a question.

“If you're going to put SROs in the school, you can't tie a hand behind their back on if they're armed or not,” Wilcox said.

Jon Akers, executive director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety, said it is a misconception that armed SROs would put students in danger.

“They befriend the kids in the hallways long before any kind of arrests that go on," Akers said. "So to think that they are there packing a gun and doing bad things is wrong."

Right now, JCPS is one of 11 school districts in Kentucky that has no SROs. It is finalizing plans to create a new security force.

“They're not there now, but from my understanding, they're working towards that,” Wilcox said.

In a statement, JCPS spokesperson Renee Murphy said:

If Wise has his way, those safety officers will be packing.

“We need to make sure that we have full capability, that a trained law enforcement professional is there.”

Wise said lawmakers in both chambers are committed to funding SROs and other measures to improve school safety, but right now, no one knows how that dollar figure will be.

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