FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) – As more details continue to emerge from the tragic school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, Kentucky lawmakers are taking time to review the state’s own school security.
In 2019, Kentucky passed the School Safety and Resiliency Act, leaving little leniency over simple things like locking doors. But what’s on paper doesn’t always translate to real life. This hearing was about finding any cracks in the armor
There are many, many different types of locks out there, so the commonality of the law that we enforce here is that whatever locking system you have, teach with your doors locked,” Jon Akers, Director of Kentucky Center for School Safety, told lawmakers Friday.
That’s only one part of Kentucky’s 2019 law. Akers said the law is practically considered a national standard and that at least 15 other states had asked for copies.
The law also requires exterior doors to be locked by controlled access, not by universal locks where a teacher carries a key. But what about when that layer of security fails?
“No other state has a group of individuals like the marshals office here in the state of Kentucky. We can put boots on the ground in a school and help a school with what they need mandate wise,” State School Security Marshal Ben Wilcox said.
Wilcox said Kentucky is unique for its two-pronged approach to making sure schools are following the safety law.
“Our compliance officers when we go into schools we don’t just walk around and make sure the doors are locked, we’re shoving on them and we’re making sure those locks are actually working. We do find doors that the locks are not functioning, and the school had no idea,” he said.
Wilcox explained his office works with KCSS, allowing them to come in right behind and help schools meet the standard. Kentucky schools are currently at 99.7%.
“A lot of folks don’t understand why doors need to be locked a lot of folks don’t understand why it’s a hassle sometimes to get into schools because I have to show an ID – they’re in a different world,” Wilcox said.
But security is only one part of the equation, lawmakers also looked at the mental health resources available in schools.
You cannot improve academic performance for a student until you remove the trauma from the student’s lives, Randy Poe, Executive director of the Northern Kentucky Education Council, said.
In northern Kentucky, they have begun using a four-category model across 40 districts to help spot warning signs and get students to help. Poe said they have been able to assess at least 60 thousand students
“Do you feel like we’re safer now than we were three years ago and I’ll answer that question by numbers we are,” Wilcox said.
The Kentucky center for school safety releases its next annual report in August. Wilcox is confident that 100 percent of Kentucky’s schools will be in line with the security standards set by the 2019 law.