An updated version of the state's bipartisan school safety bill would require that school resource officers carry firearms.
Under Senate Bill 8 — a designated priority measure with the backing of chamber leadership — districts would be required to have at least one armed SRO per campus. Schools that are linked would constitute a single campus. If approved as is, the bill would essentially bypass the school board of the state's largest district, Jefferson County, which has been debating whether school security officers should be armed.
"It seems like right now the Jefferson County School Board can't make any decision about security and a number of individuals within the school system are saying we want to see SROs that are armed," says sponsor Max Wise.
Wise says he could not speak specifically to the number of security incidents in JCPS schools, but did add that most districts already have armed SROs. HB8 would ensure all are either law enforcement or retired law enforcement. The bill does not include any language regarding the arming of teachers.
The proposal comes as lawmakers begin discussions about how to fund 2019's broad-ranging school safety bill. Wise envisions a phased-in approach, with the state focusing on infrastructure needs, such as metal detectors, this year. That would leave local school districts on the hook for other mandates in the bills.
"Yes, I mean they're going to have to determine (funding)," the senator said. "In some school districts we gave them some opportunity for fundraising in there, to do a 501(c)(3).
The updated bill also widens the scope of mental health professionals beyond school guidance counselors to help meet the state's target ratio.