CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. — Many of Kentucky's public school systems in the WHAS11 viewing area are short on School Resource Officers, a requirement by law. However, there are some districts starting this school year off with plenty of S.R.O.'s.
Taylor County Schools is comprised of five public schools, and three of them – Taylor County Primary, Intermediate and Middle Schools – share the same campus.
Current Kentucky law, mandates every single public school or shared school campus in the state must have an S.R.O. That would require TCS to have three S.R.O.'s, but the district already had five.
“I actually have an S.R.O. at every school, on every campus, so I do feel like it’s a step in the right direction,” Superintendent Charles Higdon said.
Higdon points out that heading into the new school year, they’ve added a 6th S.R.O. assigned to be primarily in the classroom teaching drug prevention.
“Until you have a safe place and a positive culture,” he said. “It’s hard for learning to take place.”
The S.R.O.’s are former police officers and state troopers who created their own Taylor County Police Department, where their only beat is to patrol the county's schools while class is in session.
S.R.O. David Tucker says they do continuous foot patrols in school buildings and are armed and ready for any situation.
“If you hear shooting at the other end of the hall, you go to that end of the hall,” Tucker said.
However, outside of being prepared for the worst case scenario, the S.R.O.’s primary job is building relationships with the kids they protect. They try to build trust with students so they feel comfortable coming to them with concerns.
“If I see a child having a bad day or a bad morning, I can pull them out, take a walk around the halls, just speak to them, try to get them to let me know what’s going on,” Tucker said.
Higdon says the district’s S.R.O. program is funded by about $250,000, which includes around $100,000 in grant money.
Following the passage of House Bill 63 during the last legislative session, every public school or shared school campus is required to have a full-time S.R.O. on-site. However, that law allows for districts to come up with alternative school safety plans until they can become fully compliant if they run into funding and staffing challenges.
That’s what most of Kentucky’s public school districts are facing.
In our 19 county viewing area on this side of the Ohio River, FOCUS found only 5 school districts are in full compliance with S.R.O.’s.
“This is our best plan,” Higdon said.
He also says he’d “be a hypocrite” if he thought the S.R.O. mandate wasn’t a good law, but Higdon understands the struggles other districts face.
“It certainly makes me feel better as a superintendent to know I have someone that will do anything it takes to keep kids safe and staff safe in every building,” he said.