FRANKFORT, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Commissioner's Student Advisory Council, a group of high school students that advises Kentucky's Education Commissioner, presented its ideas on how to improve school safety in Kentucky.
The report, titled “A Focus on School Safety,” lists nine student-driven recommendations broken down into three subsections.
1. What can be done now to prevent the chance of a school shooting?
- Promote the STOP tipline
- Improve intervention rate
- Support gun control
2. What can be done to ensure the best response when a school shooting happens?
- Active shooter drills
- Improve training for first responders
- Establish a clear notification system
3. How to prepare to support a community impacted by a school shooting?
- Provide mental health support
- Host town-hall style meetings
- Repair and rebuild the school building
The presentation is part of a project that began following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. Students on the council say it's impossible not to think about these situations.
"It's really unfortunate that you have to prepare for all of those scenarios," said Spandana Pavuluri, a student at duPont Manual High School. "It's a sad reality that we face as students."
Peter Jefferson, a student at Henry Clay High School, explained that the fear of school shootings is something that's at the back of his mind.
"I do feel safe in my school, but I would say in relation to the school shootings, I kind of think about it in the back of my head," he said. "It's just something to be aware of in the current world that we live in."
Other students explained that it's the 'what if' questions that cause some uneasiness.
"My school is mostly glass, so we do look around sometimes and just wonder how safe we would be if it that were to occur," said Joud Dahleh, a student at the Ignite Institute.
"In middle school, I had a teacher who told me if there was ever a school shooter in the halls to run in zigzags," added Pavuluri. "And I laughed at it at the time because I didn't think anything of it. And now - growing up, being older, being a high schooler - you can't laugh at these things anymore. They're real. They're serious."
And that's what the students told Rep. James Tipton, the chairman of the House Education Committee. Tipton promised to take the report back to the Capitol where the General Assembly can consider the recommendations.
"Hopefully, we can make some improvements to what we're doing through this process," said Tipton.
Tipton told the students that Kentucky made significant school safety improvements through 2019's School Safety Bill, but he acknowledged that more can always be done.
"We still need funding for SROs. We need funding for more mental health counselors in schools. There are some other things that we can do to harden schools, like I mentioned bullet resistance glass, making sure every school has a foyer so there's a second boundary for them to go through before they have access to students," he said.
The Education Commissioner, Dr. Jason Glass, explained that it's important to listen to students because they are the ones most impacted by school shootings.
"They're the ones that are under the threat of this on a regular basis and they're the ones that are most directly living through the preparation and the drills and thinking through the impact," he said.
Applications are now available for positions on the 2023-2024 Commissioner's Advisory Student Council. This group meets monthly with the Education Commissioner to discuss how decisions made at the state level are affecting students throughout Kentucky.
The appointment to the council is for one service year, renewable for consecutive appointments if the student meets eligibility requirements. Positions are open to students currently in grades 9, 10 or 11 in one of Kentucky's public high schools.
Applications must be submitted by March 9 at 11:59 p.m. ET.