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Follow-up legislation to 2019’s School Safety Resiliency Act easily clears Kentucky Senate

By Tom Latek
Kentucky Today

Follow-up legislation to last year’s school safety bill easily cleared the state Senate on Monday.

Sen. Max Wise, R-Campbellsville, the sponsor of the bill, said over the past year he has listened to stakeholders and people across the state to come up with changes to the original School Safety Resiliency Act.

“A good bill has become even better,” Wise told his colleagues, referring to additions to last year’s legislation. “Part of the process is to listen and to work with all the shareholders. And I’m honored today as the sponsor of Senate Bill 8, to talk about how the bill can strengthen upon what we’ve already created.”

Sen. Max Wise presented modifications of the School Safety bill to the Senate, which voted 34-1 to forward it to the House. (Photo by Tom Latek, Kentucky Today)

One provision of the bill was making mandatory the carrying a firearm by a School Resource Officer. Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, offered an amendment, which would make it at the discretion of each local district.

“That mandatory provision does not take into consideration the culture and other types of activities, and decisions on a local level that serve education and safety considerations as well,” Neal said. “Some are arguing that it’s better to let the local people who know the most about it to address that.”

The amendment was defeated by a voice vote.

“We walk into these Senate chamber doors each day, protected and guarded by the Thin Gray Line,” referring to the Kentucky State Police, Wise said. “Men and women who are outside of these doors, men and women who are standing in this gallery. If we are protected by those who are sworn law enforcement officers with a firearm, would we not want the same for our children in Kentucky public schools?”

“It is somewhat troubling that we have to have a bill that deals with school safety. But it’s the day and time in which we live. We just had the two-year anniversary last week of the Marshall County High School shooting. We hope and pray that we never see another Marshall County, or Ryle High School or Carter County or Heath High School, or the different ones that have happened in the past.”

While stating the bill won’t necessarily be the magic solution to stop those from happening, Wise added, “I think it starts at the home. I think as a society we don’t pray as much as we used to at the family dinner table. We don’t eat together as a family like we once did. We’re so torn in different directions, we have a rise in our foster care situation, and we have to get back to the moral fabric of our society.

He added, “There is still much to be done.”

The bill passed 34-1, with the lone “no” vote coming from Senate Minority Leader Morgan McGarvey. He, like Senator Neal, prefer the issue of arming SROs be left to local school boards, and he also called it an unfunded mandate requiring the schools to buy the weapons.

It now heads to the House.

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