Student group advises KDE on school safety

Published 4:22 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023


Kentucky Today

The Kentucky Department of Education’s Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council, presented a report on potential actions to increase school safety, which they began following last year’s mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

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“We all had a lot of big emotions and we needed somewhere to put that,” said council member Malley Taylor, a junior at Craft Academy in Rowan County. “We realized we needed to use our voices for change.”

The report follows a year where schools experienced 170 incidents of gunfire on school grounds, according to Everytown Research and Policy. Those incidents resulted in 55 deaths and 145 injuries.

Council member Peter Jefferson, a sophomore at Henry Clay High School in Lexington, said he and his fellow council members wanted to make an impact on what is a growing problem in schools.  “Something is happening. How can we make sure that it doesn’t happen for us and minimize the effects of it if it does?”

Members conducted research independently that summer and held discussions in breakout groups to develop a list of potential policy changes. The breakout groups focused on three different categories of recommendations: before an incident, during an incident and after an incident.

Council members suggested three things to prevent school violence beforehand:

• Promote the STOP Tipline, because it must be available to schools through state statute, but the current law does not say anything about promoting it to students, which can be a crucial step toward picking up on warning signs being displayed by a student.

• Improve the rate of intervention in concerning behaviors.

• Support gun control.

Members recommended changes focused on preparation and notification during an incident:

• Improve active shooter drills.

• Improve training for first responders.

• Establish a clear notification system for students and parents.

They also focused on how to prepare to support a community affected by an act of violence at a school:

• Provide mental health support.

• Host town hall meetings.

• Repair and rebuild the school building.

Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass said the voices of students on these issues are critical. “We’re proud of the work that they’ve done. I think they’ve shown how capable Kentucky students are at pulling together policy recommendations that are smart, well-vetted and well-researched.”