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Jefferson County Public Schools leaning toward arming safety officers in school

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Posted at 10:16 AM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 10:16:53-05

(LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE/LEX 18) — A new proposal calls for arming safety officers in JCPS middle school and high school, according to WAVE.

JCPS wants safety officers to focus on responding to safety issues and not disciplining students.

"We need to make sure that these officers have a great desire to help and teach these kids, be a mentor to them," said Minerva Virola, the JCPS project manager.

These officers would be school district employees. JCPS officials would have control over who is hired, according to WAVE.

The officers would be required to go through an on-going, consistent training that would equal 60 more hours than what Kentucky requires for SROs.

WAVE reported that this training would also include cross-cultural communication and implicit bias.

On Tuesday, the superintendent, Dr. Marty Pollio, said that the district is leaning toward arming these officers.

"We want someone who's able to go towards that threat, not someone who's going to go along with the teachers and the students with a radio and telling them where they're at," Virola said.

Linda Duncan, a board member, said that she cannot support the proposal.

Others believe that feelings are being overshadowed by the research that has been done.

Dr. Chris Kolb, a board member, stressed how important it was to build positive relationships between students and officers, according to WAVE.

"In schools with lower levels of trust, where they don't have those relationships, they're much less likely to confide in an adult that they suspect or know that there may be a gun in the school," Kolb said.

A survey that was sent to the middle and high schools showed that 90 percent of the teachers want an SRO in their school. But, they found that some people argued that a police presence can be harmful to some students.

"We'd rather see different kinds of people hired," said Chris Harmer with the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. "We want to see social workers, ex-teachers [and] psychologists hired."

The official proposal will be presented to a committee and, if approved, Pollio said that they will move quickly to get people hired, trained and in the schools by Fall 2020, according to WAVE.