As the 2019 legislative session wrapped up, a significant win for Kentucky’s children in schools across the Commonwealth was signed into law by Governor Bevin – Senate Bill 1, known as the School Safety and Resiliency Act. Since then, there have been a fair amount of questions among educators, health professionals, students, and advocates related to the details and implied impacts of the bill.
When it comes to any issue – and that includes school safety – Kentucky Youth Advocates consistently asks the essential question, “Is it good for kids?” Read more in our final statement on Senate Bill 1 here and in a summary of select pieces of the bill here.
Through the efforts led by Senator Wise and Representative Carney, members of the School Safety Working Group (SSWG), and a variety of diverse stakeholders, a complex issue was thoughtfully approached resulting in an equally comprehensive and well-thought-out array of solutions. This new law creates guidelines and sets standards to help ensure student safety in schools, as well as lays the foundation for strengthening our schools and their ability to adequately meet the physical and mental health needs of all Kentucky students. As questions begin to arise, we wanted to provide a review of the overarching components and take a deeper dive into what this truly means for Kentucky kids.
Many school districts across the Commonwealth have been implementing some of these now state-required policies for a few years and are already in the process of analyzing what areas to expand, improve, or eliminate in regard to these statutes that are heavily based on stakeholder input, solid research, and best practices.
And while there are strong, positive waves of support, many Kentuckians have raised concerns about how many of these programs and practices will be funded. In a true example of state agency collaboration, the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CFHS) testified at SSWG and committee hearings on their intention to amend the state Medicaid plan which would allow schools to tap into a federal funding stream to expand school-based health services for the upcoming 2019-20 school year and beyond. The opportunity will allow school districts and CHFS to pull down vital federal Medicaid dollars. Additionally, school districts’ existing expenditures for health services can be used to meet the match required to utilize these federal funds. This means that one of the most crucial cornerstones to ensure school safety – students’ access to needed behavioral health services – is affordable and achievable.
This law has managed to find a unique balance between the proven strategies that provide physical safety, and those that lead to supportive learning environments and the overall health of students. With new school building guidelines for both the entrances and the inside of schools, standards and trainings for school staff around security, and required specialized training for all school resource officers in not only protecting the buildings and persons within it but also in their essential preventative roles as teachers and mentors, schools will ultimately be better equipped to deal with any situation both from within and from outside of the school. Combined with suicide awareness, trauma-informed teams, the implementation of trauma training, and an improved goal standard for school counselor-to-student ratios, Kentucky’s children now have more opportunities than ever for success and a healthy life.
When any piece of legislation passes, the details within each section of the statue are critical for implementation. For that reason, we’ve created a document which takes a deeper dive into the School Safety and Resiliency Act that includes a summary of bill components, key dates, and a response to KYA’s essential question, “Is it good for kids?”