FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Physical security of school buildings, detection and prevention of school shootings and having school resource officers were the top points made by school safety experts, during a legislative committee meeting Monday.
The General Assembly’s Interim Joint Education Committee heard from Jon Akers, executive director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety; Chris Barrier, director of law enforcement for the Montgomery County Schools; and Mark Filburn, former commissioner of the Department of Criminal Justice Training.
Akers told the panel that since the Heath High School shooting in 1997, Kentucky has always made school safety a high priority, and appreciated them not taking a knee-jerk approach after the Marshall County High School shooting in January.
“Taking a measured approach, sitting back until the dust clears, and seeing what other people are doing, gives you an opportunity to look at things in a more comprehensive way,” he said.
Akers said to help prevent the shootings, it’s important that students learn to trust school officials to tell them if they know something will be going happening. “To break the ‘code of silence,’ that student-teacher relationship, is absolutely critical. Kids need to know that the teachers have their best interests at heart and will protect them.”
Filburn told lawmakers during an active shooter situation, seconds can mean the difference in saving a child’s life. “Our goal in law enforcement is to protect the children and give them time so we can get people there to take care of the situation.”
The number one recommendation for school safety is locking securing access to the building once the kids get into school, according to Filburn. “That means all doors locked, with no doors propped open because it’s convenient for a teacher.”
Locking each classroom once all the students are inside, should also be required.
Security should be our utmost concern, he said. “We’re in a different world. This is not the high school or college I went to. When I went to college, we took our shotguns to the dorm, so we could go hunting on the weekend. You’d get locked up now.”
Barrier testified the value of a school resource officer is in building relationships with the students. “We are living in the ‘fatherless generation’, where 24 million children, nearly one in three, live in a home without their biological father. A properly trained school resource officer can not only fill that gap, but help deter delinquent behavior.”
When asked by lawmakers if they support arming teachers as a deterrent, Akers replied, “I prefer armed school resource officers, who have had years of training. Two weeks of training a teacher is not enough.”