MADISON COUNTY, Ky. (WKT) - Kentucky has a new role in helping protect students: the school security marshal, but the man filling that role isn't new to policing in public schools.
Ben Wilcox is Kentucky's school security marshal. The position was created as part of the state's school safety bill signed into law this year. (Photo by WKYT)
Ben Wilcox says he became a school resource officer in 1999 after the Columbine shooting. He later trained officers at the Department of Criminal Justice Training.
Now, Wilcox leads the state-wide efforts to make sure public schools are following mandated practices in his new role.
Kentucky lawmakers approved a school safety bill back in February. The measure sets new goals of putting police officers in every school and having at least one counselor for every 250 students. It also created the school security marshal.
Part of Wilcox's job is to hire compliance officers.
"Their job starting at the first of the year would be to visit every local district school in the state of Kentucky," Wilcox said.
Those compliance officers will also check that schools are doing the following: locking doors, buzzing people in, and checking for IDs before letting anyone check out a student.
Wilcox tells WKYT the compliance officers will also be looking for schools implementing best practices to highlight their efforts.
Central Kentucky schools have already had a couple of incidents involving guns during the new school year. Wilcox says, in these situations, he considers the system to be working because students are willing to report what they've seen.
"People are going to the right people in the schools and telling them this is unsafe or there is something going on," said Wilcox, "and that’s the climate that we want in our schools in the state of Kentucky.
By 2021 and as funds allow, every school in Kentucky is required to have a resource officer, but Wilcox says everyone working in the school system will be playing a role.
The legislation passed this year comes with no money attached, but Republican budget leaders have promised to provide the money during next year's budgeting session.
Wilcox says his office is in Richmond but he plans to spend as much time as he can visiting Kentucky's public schools.