Many of us remember Schoolhouse Rock!’s, “Bill” – the personified bill – “on Capitol Hill.” Poor Bill is a lonely bill with a lot of hope as he admits he has a long journey ahead of him to become a law. Bill realizes he’s one of the few lucky bills that actually gets heard in committee, which is the first positive step towards full passage.

There’s a bill right now in Kentucky that, just by its name, has been placed as THE bill to pass this session. This bill is Senate Bill 1, sponsored by Senator Max Wise, and its companion bill House Bill 1, sponsored by Representative John “Bam” Carney – otherwise known as the “School Safety and Resiliency Act.” Senate President Robert Stivers has been referring to it as “General Assembly Bill 1” to denote the importance both chambers, and all parties have placed on it.

Senator Wise and Representative Carney led the School Safety Working Group thoughtfully to ensure perspectives were heard across the state and recommendations to improve school safety were comprehensive. That thoughtful approach has carried into the session as both state leaders are considering feedback to make the bills even stronger. As it begins to move through the Kentucky legislature, we wanted to share some of the main components that align with the 2019 Blueprint for Kentucky’s Children priorities.

Major highlights of SB 1 and HB 1:

– Allow flexibility for school districts to contract with or hiring additional behavioral health professionals through various means, such as leveraging federal dollars to allow schools to bill Medicaid for behavioral health and other health services

– Adopt a trauma-informed approach to education in all public schools

– Encourage communication between external law enforcement and schools when a student is involved in traumatic experiences outside of the school day

– Increase mandatory training of School Resource Officers (from 40 hours to 120 hours over 3 years) to specifically include the following, in addition to the listed security-focused curricula:

*resource officers as teachers and mentors
*youth mental health awareness
*diversity training
*trauma-informed responses
*understanding children with special needs
*connecting to resources

– Create a School Security Marshall position (like a Fire Marshall) who will oversee required ‘best-practices’ protections for school building access like having doors that lock from the outside

– Build-in accountability:

*for schools and districts that do not meet the minimal building security standards
*for SRO’s who do not complete trainings

– Develop a trauma team within each school to identify and assist students who have been impacted by trauma

– Expand suicide prevention training:

*to include the topic of mental health awareness
*to reach additional staff and students (beginning in 6th grade)
*to be provided more directly than the current ‘distribution method’ requirement

Overall, the companion bills, SB 1 and HB 1, create opportunities for students to learn and live in safe and supportive school environments that address their behavioral health needs. The bills balance proven strategies to address physical safety, components to foster more supportive learning environments, and prioritizes the behavioral health needs of students, and will only get stronger as thoughtful feedback is considered.

SB 1 is scheduled to be heard in Senate Education Committee on February 7th and HB 1 will likely be heard in the House Education Committee in the coming weeks. Movement of SB 1 and HB 1 can be tracked on the Kentucky Youth Advocates Kentucky General Assembly Bill Tracker here.