LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) – Tuesday’s school shooting in Texas has put security of schools in local communities on the minds of many parents.
Kentucky has implemented new laws since the last time a similar tragedy occurred in one of the Commonwealth’s own communities. The unfortunate truth for each school shooting is they are studied, scrutinized, and more is learned about what can be done to improve classroom security.
“The drills that we did 20 years ago are different than the drills we do today,” Jon Akers told FOX 56.
Akers is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety and a former principal. In smaller communities dotted throughout the Bluegrass, much like Uvalde, their own security can sometimes come in conflict with a familiar face.
“’Well, you know me, let me come on in here,’ well we have changed that paradigm in Kentucky over the last 3 years saying ‘even though you are a frequent visitor of our school – we still want you to come in through the front door, check in,” Akers said.
The last school shooting in Kentucky happened in January 2018 at Marshall County High School. A 15-year-old student was charged with killing two other students and injuring over a dozen. The following year, the General Assembly passed the School Safety and Resiliency Act into law.
“That requires all exterior doors to be locked in all of our schools and have what we call a controlled front door where it’s electronically controlled with a camera and a person is directed into the principal’s office stating why they are there on campus,” Akers said.
It’s called access control, a secure system in theory, but in practice Akers said there are also some safeguards if it were to fail.
“Possibly, someone yes could possibly could get in, so what’s your next level of defense? Well, your classroom doors. And so the law says in Kentucky that during instruction all classroom doors must be locked, so we’re already in a quasi-lockdown already, if you will,” Akers said.
Mindfulness is also given to the approach in practicing drills for elementary-age children.
“We don’t even use the term lockdown in elementaries anymore we call them safety drills,” Akers said. He shared examples like moving students to the side to do quiet reading or referring to the shooter as a bad dog they’re trying to hide from. “We’re taking away some of the scary stuff of this,” he added.
“Schools are still very safe place or children to be, it’s one of the safest places kids can be,” Kentucky Education Commissioner Dr. Jason Glass told FOX 56.
Glass said the state will examine what went wrong and what could be prevented.
“We will spend a lot of time going through what happened, what protections were in place, what were the motivations of the shooter,” he said.
This year, the General Assembly passed House Bill 63 into law. The bill calls for all Kentucky schools to have a school resource officer assigned to them by August 1.