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Kentucky schools score high in safety, administrators find areas to improve

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Posted at 11:28 PM, Sep 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-05 23:34:34-04

(LEX 18) — As the fall semester gets into full swing across the Commonwealth, school safety experts say the kids are in good hands.

"The numbers are good. Schools are in compliance. Everyone involved is working toward a safer Kentucky," said Kentucky's State School Security Marshal Ben Wilcox.

Wilcox said over 99% of Kentucky schools are in compliance with school access rules regarding how schools screen visitors, according to the 2021-2022 Office of the State School Security Marshal Annual Report.

"Obviously, we're always pushing for 100%. We have to have 100%, but having 99.53% is very, very good, Wilcox said.

There is one area where schools are having trouble getting to 100%. That's the new requirement this year that every school in the state have a school resource officer. According to the report, 55% of Kentucky's schools don't meet that requirement. A lot of school systems across the Commonwealth, including Fayette County, have waivers to excuse them from that requirement until they're able to meet it.

"The way we used to do things in the past are just no longer the right thing to do," said Estill County Superintendent Jeff Saylor.

Saylor said families in his district can expect some changes this year. Instead of having big events involving extended family like grandparents coming for breakfast or a Thanksgiving dinner for families during the school day, they will hold evening events instead.

"Then parents can make a decision about whether or not they want to attend and whether or not they want their child there," Saylor said.

Saylor also emphasized that students should always report any threat they are aware of to school administrators, even if they are not sure the threat is serious.

"If there's a threat made, no matter what it is, don't take it upon yourself to determine whether or not they were serious. Report it," Saylor said.

As school leaders find ways to improve safety in their districts, Wilcox said one of the biggest things administrators can do is keep the focus on how the students are doing.

"Relationships are going to be the biggest factor. We can lock all our doors. We can check people in at the front desk, but we've got to have relationships in our schools. We have to have mental health assistance for our kids, for our staff. Everybody has to continue to work together to find out and know what's going on in your school and that's what's going to be the biggest factor of school safety," Wilcox said.