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Passage of sweeping school safety measure highlights week

By DANIEL ELLIOTT

Guest columnist

The 2019 session is nearing its ending point, and I am proud to say that the General Assembly accomplished our top legislative priority. Senate Bill 1 — also known as the School Safety & Resiliency Act — is heading to the governor’s desk after passing both the House and Senate.

SB 1 is a profound step toward both securing our schools and strengthening our students. This legislation is a bold step forward in tackling an issue brought to light by last year’s shooting at Marshall County High School, a tragedy that rocked our commonwealth. The death of two young children highlighted the need for action, and the General Assembly delivered with passage of this transformative measure.

This bill stemmed from the excellent work of the School Safety Working Group in 2018, addressing two major challenges of securing our schools and strengthening our students.

This proactive approach to combating violence in our schools focuses on increasing physical security, promoting an increased culture of student connection, and increasing oversight and accountability of school safety efforts.

This framework sets a state goal of placing more trained law enforcement officers and school counselors in Kentucky schools, steps that will both harden the targets of our school buildings while better addressing the mental health needs of our youth.

The legislation also requires school districts to appoint a school safety coordinator, which many districts already do, while also calling for the creation of a new state school security marshal. This new statewide marshal would be charged with working to keep schools compliant with safety requirements.

The bill also stiffens penalties making false threats against schools, and requires both active shooter training and more suicide prevention training for certain school employees.

A significant point of discussion has been just how new school safety initiatives will be funded. While the exact amount of costs associated with SB 1 will not be known until administrators begin to implement the bill, I am committed to prioritizing increased funding to support the major initiative we just passed. We will craft the new state budget next year, and it is critical that we appropriate enough funding to bring our school safety efforts to fruition. When 2020 comes, we will have a better idea of what kind of funding will be necessary to support the School Safety and Resiliency Act.

The best part of the 2019 school safety effort was the bipartisanship at hand. Both Republicans and Democrats, in both the House and Senate, came together in order to do what is best for the Commonwealth’s children — something we can all be proud of.

With school safety issues behind us for this session, I am now looking ahead to other potential issues as this session begins to wind down. Please reach out to me with your thoughts and ideas on the critical issues remaining before us this session, as I would like to represent each of you in Frankfort to the best of my ability.

Rep. Daniel Elliott represents the 54th House District, which includes Boyle and Casey counties. Contact him with any questions, concerns, or advice. He can be reached through the toll-free message line in Frankfort at (800) 372-7181, or via e-mail at daniel.elliott@lrc.ky.gov.