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).
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.
If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!
Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century
This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!