Kentucky: 43% of Schools Don’t Have SROs Despite State Requirement

House Bill 63, passed by the Kentucky legislature in 2022, requires all campuses to have at least one school resource officer (SRO).

Kentucky: 43% of Schools Don’t Have SROs Despite State Requirement

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Around 500 Kentucky schools don’t have school resource officers (SROs) despite the 2022 passing of House Bill 63 which requires all campuses to have at least one.

Approximately 43% of schools don’t have an assigned SRO, WKYT reports. Educators and law enforcement officials say lack of funding and finding qualified officers are some of the biggest hurdles.

“We have on SRO right now,” said Kenny Bell, superintendent of Wolfe County Schools, which has five schools. It took a whole year to find that one SRO, he said.

“It’s a hard feeling, knowing that applicants are not there. The funding is not there, but the need is,” Bell continued. “It’s about the safety of our students. We don’t want to come in and criminalize our students because you have the wrong SRO in place. You want the right person who is able to work with families, able to work with school administrators, able to keep our buildings safer.”

Under the state’s 2019 School Safety and Resiliency Act, SROs are required to complete a 120-hour certification program that covers standard firearms training, active shooter training, and student mental health training, among other things.

Anderson County Schools was able to place at least one SRO in each of its six schools when it established a partnership with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office in 2017.

“The school system tried to do it by themselves. They can come up with the funding, but where do they get the trained officers? The sheriff tried to do it by himself. We can’t afford it,” said Anderson County Sheriff Joe Milam. “The combination of the two working together as a team made it all possible.”

Many believe lawmakers should help fund SROs through new legislation, according to WKYT. Senator Max Wise, who was the lead sponsor of the School Safety and Resiliency Act, said with the 2024 budget session coming up, he hopes the Kentucky General Assembly “continues to look at school safety from an SRO perspective.”

“A lot of times we look at what we’re not doing well in Kentucky. We’ve done this well, and it’s not because of me as a legislator,” he continued. “It’s because school districts also have stepped up police departments and made a commitment to this, and I give so much credit to those that are doing this job.”

Kentucky isn’t the only state struggling to fill required SRO positions. In May, the Texas Legislative approved a $330 million bill that in part would require an armed officer, contracted peace officer, or SRO at each school in the state starting Sept. 1, 2023. House Bill 3 (HB 3) was established following the Robb Elementary School tragedy.

Similar to Kentucky, Texas educators and law enforcement officers say a nationwide officer shortage and inadequate funding provided by the new law are the two main reasons schools are having a hard time hiring officers. With nearly 9,000 K-12 schools in Texas, HB 3 only gives each campus $15,000 to improve campus security. Recruiting, hiring, training, and equipping an SRO or other type of police officer costs much more than that.

For example, Austin ISD pays its SROs $77,000 per year, not including training and equipment. The district plans to double its police force, spending nearly $6 million to hire 75 new police officers, according to the Austin American Statesman. San Antonio ISD Superintendent Jaime Aquino said the district would receive $1.3 million in funding from the state but that paying for the additional 41 officers needed would cost $2.9 million.

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Amy is Campus Safety’s Executive Editor. Prior to joining the editorial team in 2017, she worked in both events and digital marketing.

Amy has many close relatives and friends who are teachers, motivating her to learn and share as much as she can about campus security. She has a minor in education and has worked with children in several capacities, further deepening her passion for keeping students safe.

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2 responses to “Kentucky: 43% of Schools Don’t Have SROs Despite State Requirement”

  1. Tim Zagorski says:

    In New Mexico K-12 schools are not allowed by State Statute to have their own Police Dept., so SRO’s have to be contracted by the school. The local PD’s and SO’s usually contract with the local school district through an MOU and the district usually pays about 1/2 an officers salary not including benefits, equipment or training. On the other hand, Higher ED (Universities) can have their own PD so we need to get the NM Legislators to add language to the statute allowing K-12 the same protections.

  2. Roger Moore says:

    Staffing levels for SROs will continue to follow the current staffing trends found in all law enforcement agencies. Many agencies are experiencing severe staffing shortages and there is no reason to expect the trend to reverse anytime soon. In Missouri intervention capacity can be achieved by utilizing the Department of Public Safety overseer School Protection Officer program. We have trained SPOs for over 45 districts in Missouri and our 11th class begins in March. There are solutions to mitigate mass violence regardless of the staffing issues law enforcement is experiencing.

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