JCPS unveils new school safety proposal to replace SROs


Brennan Eberwine

JCPS held a virtual town hall in order to discuss how they expect to replace SROs.

Brennan Eberwine

JCPS unveiled its new security and school safety proposal through a virtual town hall held on Wednesday, Jan. 12. The school board said that this plan would replace the current use of School Resource Officers (SROs), an armed policeman in uniform, in the buildings. The use of SROs in public schools has been hotly debated in recent years due to the increased focus on police brutality, particularly brutality directed towards Black Americans. 

This new security plan would replace SROs with two positions: School Safety Officers (SSOs) and Safety Administrators (SAs). SSOs would patrol around a set area of schools (ideally one high school, one middle school and a few elementary schools) but would not actually be in the school buildings themselves. These SSOs would be armed, sworn officers that JCPS would have oversight over; unlike SROs, who were overseen by Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD). Safety Administrators would be unarmed individuals stationed inside the school, focusing on building trust with students and managing safety-related issues at their assigned location.

Both of these positions would also have more extensive training than what was required for SROs. The board listed a plethora of required types of training, such as restorative practices, trauma-informed care and cross-cultural communication/implicit bias training. This adds up to around 60 hours of training total, as opposed to the 40 hours required of SROs. 

JCPS opened up the virtual floor to several community members who had questions about this proposal, including several PTA members, a school principal, parents and one student. It was a chance for clarification on the matter at hand. 

One PTA member inquired if the district would put into place an accountability board for the two new positions and also asked if JCPS’ hiring practices would include screening to ensure officers with past histories of brutality weren’t hired. The board responded that there would be an accountability board that will meet quarterly and that JCPS will properly vet all applicants.

Newburg Middle School Principal Nicole Addell asked if principals and schools would be involved in the hiring process. Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio responded that the district would vet a list of applicants and send that list to schools for the principal and SBDM to approve. 

There were other questions about whether this approach to school safety was the right one, with several people texting into the district to ask why they wouldn’t just employ more SROs or add metal detectors to schools. Pollio said that due to staffing shortages at LMPD and Kentucky State Police (KSP), it would be unrealistic to hire more SROs to be in every school. Pollio also stated that metal detectors are ineffective in violence prevention and that the district would look into other security technologies instead.

There was a mixed reaction to the unveiling. Many expressed approval for the plan’s new holistic approach to student discipline. Others were worried and wondered if the plan would even be able to see the light of day, as a current Kentucky General Assembly bill mandates that all schools have an SRO. Pollio responded that he cannot predict what the State legislature will do, but did say he had met with local legislators who expressed approval for the district’s plan.

This JCPS School Safety Proposal will be tweaked for a few more months until it is proposed to the school board for final approval. Feedback to the JCPS Safety Proposal may be submitted here.