Fayette County School Board holds special meeting on school safety plan

Updated: Jun. 9, 2021 at 5:36 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Safety is at the top of the agenda for the Fayette County School Board.

Following violence in schools across the country, the district created a 10-point safety investment plan, and board members are now taking a look at what has been done so far.

“It was okay to harden our buildings, but we wanted to soften our schools,” Fayette County Public Schools spokesperson Lisa Deffendall said.

Updates have been made to the plan. The district has implemented student and staff ID badges at middle and high schools, upgraded its emergency response app, monitored social media for threats and concerns, and has added door alarms, access points, metal detectors, security vestibules and cameras at school entrances.

Point no. 1 on the list? Recruiting more law enforcement officers. The district currently has 65 total officers, with 4 in each high school, 1 per middle and program school, and 17 officers for 38 elementary schools. They plan to add five more officers, and one more dispatcher this upcoming school year. 20 more officers are needed in order to reach the School Resiliency Act’s standard.

“We are very selective in our hiring. We realize that any number of police officers can operate and function on the streets or at the state level or federal level, but it takes some extra skills to operate in a school,” said Officer Martin Schafer, the police chief of Fayette County Public Schools.

Speakers said when students walk through the doors, they should feel welcomed by law enforcement officers.

“Our officers are engaged. Our officers are involved in our buildings. Our officers are visible in our buildings. That’s what the expectation is for our department,” Lieutenant Antoine Sims said.

Comments written during the live meeting said otherwise.

One read, “As a student, no one trusts the law enforcement officers. Their presence make students afraid.”

Recently, students held a rally advocating for more counselors, and fewer police officers.

Some school board members and school leaders said school resource officers are there to prevent any dangerous incidents.

“It’s not to catch criminal activity when it occurs. It’s not to charge an offender when a violent crime has been committed. It’s not even simply to respond to potentially violent acts, or crisis situations. Those law enforcement officers are in my school to detour those activities from ever occurring in the first place,” Lafayette High School Principal Bryne Jacobs said.

Principal Jacobs said these officers can monitor the 26-acre campus he runs.

Overall, the district received a good review on its plan.

“I have been around the corner several times around our country visiting districts in 28 states, and I can tell you there’s no other district that has what you all have going on around here,” said Jon Akers, the executive director of Kentucky Center for School Safety.

A district trauma informed plan will be presented at the next school board meeting.

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