Senate bill would allow veterans, retired police officers to serve as school ‘guardians’ to enhance safety

March 1, 2024 | 12:10 am

Updated February 29, 2024 | 11:46 pm

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, speaks on Senate Bill 2, which would establish a guardian program to help improve school safety. | Photo by KY LRC

A bill that seeks to enhance school safety by allowing some veterans and former police officers to serve as school “guardians” received approval Thursday from the Senate Education Committee.

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, is sponsoring the measure, Senate Bill 2. It cleared the committee with a 10-1 vote and is headed to the Senate floor for consideration. One committee member cast a pass vote.

The legislation would allow local education boards to hire school guardians to supplement school resource officers starting next year. SB 2 also includes provisions to enhance mental health interventions with trauma-informed teams.

“With this, the General Assembly can show their commitment to both the hardening approach to student safety and a softening approach to a student’s well-being to trauma and their mental health needs,” Wise said.

He testified that the bill is not seeking to replace or remove any current safeguards and will instead serve as a stopgap measure to help districts that have had trouble hiring resource officers in recent years.

The program would be an option, not a requirement. Those eligible to serve as guardians would include certain honorably discharged U.S. military personnel and retired local, state, and federal law enforcement officers.

Before someone can become a guardian, the candidate must pass a medical examination, a drug screening, and an extensive background check. They must complete a psychological screening and weapons training.

Regarding mental health, SB 2 would facilitate trauma-informed teams consisting of school administrators, school counselors, school psychologists, school social workers, community-based mental health service providers, school nurses, SROs, and other district personnel to assist with mental health issues affecting students.

The bill calls on districts to submit a report on their team’s activities to state officials each year.

Senate Democratic Floor Leader Gerald A. Neal, D-Louisville, said he likes the collaboration, informed approach, and mental health provisions of the bill. But he cast a pass vote, saying that he didn’t have enough information.

Neal also said he didn’t see any provisions in the bill on acclimating guardians to school practices or interaction with children.

“A school has to be a welcoming place and a place of interaction,” he said. “It has to be a place where folks have connectivity.”

Sen. Danny Carroll, R-Benton, said he was a police officer for 24 years and expressed concerns about certain provisions in the measure.

“I don’t have any issues with the retired troopers, and I’m assuming with retired special law enforcement officers you’re referring to those that have worked in the schools,” he said. “So, my concerns are most specific to veterans. And not to be disrespectful to any veterans, I have the utmost respect – different training, different mission and we, as a law enforcement agency, we recruited veterans.”

Senate Minority Caucus Chair Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, voted for the measure but said the problem in Kentucky and the United States is guns.

“We have a gun access problem. We have a gun violence problem, and the only way we’re really going to resolve this is to stop it at the root and stop access to guns and make sure those people who have guns are using them responsibly,” he said.

Information from the Kentucky Legistlative Research Commission.

March 1, 2024 | 12:10 am

Share this Article

Other articles you may like