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State Senate Unanimously Passes School Safety Bill
By West Kentucky Star Staff
FRANKFORT - Kentucky Senate Bill 1 - The School Safety and Resiliency Act - passed unanimously on Friday. 

Republican Senator Max Wise of Campbellsville, who sponsored the bill, says it is a comprehensive measure that focuses on personnel; systems and structures; accountability; and a culture of student connectivity. 

Wise said SB 1 was the product of testimony, research and study over eight months by the nonpartisan School Safety Working Group and others who were asked to assist. Legislators formed the group in response to the western Kentucky shooting at Marshall County High School last winter in Benton. Earlier in the week, the parents of Bailey Holt and Preston Cope gave emotional testimony in support of the bill before the Senate Education Committee.

“No one was shut out from providing input,” said Wise, chairman of the education committee. “No one was shut out from my office. No one was shut out from having comments and feedback."

Republican Sen. Danny Carroll of Paducah recounted his reaction after hearing of the Marshall County High School shooting while he was in Frankfort for legislative duties. 

“I remember the feelings of helplessness and the desire to do something immediately,” he said. “I think we all felt those feelings that day, however, we realized the best thing we could do was to take a step back and to think through the decisions we were making.”

He said that “pause” has resulted in superior legislation.

The bill would create a state school safety marshal, similar to the state fire marshal, and would also establish the framework for schools to expand the use of school resource officers.

Another provision would require one guidance counselor with mental health training for every 250 students in a school, contingent on funding. Those counselors would be required to spend at least 60 percent of their workday on counseling-related tasks.

The bill would also expand an anonymous school safety tip line statewide, while a fourth would encourage districts to seek charitable donations to pay for security-related expenses.

A fifth provision would specify who could serve on the board for the Center for School Safety and clarify members’ duties. The nationally recognized center was created by the passage of House Bill 330 in 1998. That measure was in response to the Heath High School shooting on Dec. 1, 1997, in West Paducah. Three girls died and five other students were injured.

Wise said passage of the bill would be the first step in the legislature’s efforts to improve school safety. He said the second step would be to fund its various provisions during next year’s regular session of the General Assembly. That’s when legislators are required to pass a biennium budget for the state. 

Republican Sen. Christian McDaniel of Taylor Mill said as chairman of the Senate Appropriations & Revenue Committee he would work to make sure provisions of SB 1 are funded in the next budget.

Wise stressed that the bill tried to avoid unfunded mandates that cash-strapped rural schools may not be able to afford.

Democratic Senator Julian M. Carroll of Frankfort voted for the bill, but said the legislation failed to address one underlying problem - easy access to unsecured guns.

“We don’t want to deal with what to do about guns in the hands of students,” he said. “That is one small, but absolutely critical issue. I understand why it was not discussed because we do not like to even use the word ‘gun’ in many of our discussions.”

However, Republican Senator C.B. Embry Jr., of Morgantown, commended the bipartisan effort.

“We were working together, and that is great,” said Embry, a co-sponsor of SB 1. “Our children are our most precious and valuable asset that we have in the commonwealth of Kentucky. This bill is a step in the right direction to give them safety.”

The bill passed the chamber by a 35-0 vote and now goes to the House of Representatives for their consideration, although a similar bill has also been introduced in the lower chamber.

Information provided by Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

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Published 08:12 AM, Saturday Feb. 09, 2019
Updated 11:23 PM, Friday Feb. 08, 2019

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