The School Safety Working Group was created by the General Assembly after the Marshall County school shooting to travel across Kentucky and collect perspectives on the state of school safety before making a set of recommendations. One of our student members, Nasim Mohammadzadeh, was a member of the working group.
Meanwhile, Fayette County Public Schools (Lexington) proposed a tax increase to fund school safety measures. The Student Voice Team supported the policy because of its emphasis on soft school safety measures like increased counselor funding and social-emotional learning curriculum, and the bill wound up passing.
However, students saw the hard policies like metal detectors first, which caused a noticeable shift in school climate across the district. At one Central Kentucky high school, some of our members noted increased unease and discomfort. In collaboration with school administration, they created and distributed a survey about school climate and safety perceptions, noting that students felt more unsafe with the introduction of metal detectors. They then shared these findings back to both the school and the state level School Safety Working Group.
These conversations culminated in Senate Bill 1 of the 2019 legislative session, which, like the FCPS property tax proposal, combined both hard and soft measures to provide comprehensive school safety reform. The Student Voice Team supported the bill and advocated for its increased funding for counselors and mental health support during the session.
The bill passed in the 2019 session, but the legislature allocated no funding towards it because it wasn’t a budget year. For the 2020 legislative session, our team continued our advocacy for mental health funding, as we wanted to ensure that the hard security measures were not the only ones that received support.
We were told that absolutely no money would be allocated to support the increase in school counselors that Senate Bill 1 mandated, but we refused to give in. Our efforts culminated with a lobbying day where we met with nine elected officials and the Governor’s communications team to push for this funding.
Though we continued to be shut down, we learned that $50 million had been allocated to introduce new counselors into Kentucky’s schools, which would have shifted the ratio from 460:1 to 412:1. Unfortunately, budget cuts caused by COVID lowered the funding to $7.4 million, but it was still a much greater amount than we anticipated -- enough to lower the counselor ratio to 450:1.
Read Our Takes
March 14, 2018
Getting Beyond Guns
Keaton Conner, Nasim Mohammadzadeh and Annie Stauffer
For many Kentucky high school students growing up with the memories of Heath, Columbine, Virginia Tech, and Sandy Hook, recent events have made it feel as though our schools are under siege.
July 12, 2018
Beyond Guns: Student Testimony on School Safety, Climate, and Culture
On Tuesday, June 26, members of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team addressed Education Secretary Betsy Devos’ panel of policy makers who made a stop in Lexington as part a national listening tour to identify solutions to issues around school safety. Propelled by what we learned conducting school climate audits and what we heard from the youth and adults who attended our statewide teach-in and rally around school safety in March, we secured a speaking slot during the hour reserved for public comment. The following is a transcript of our message.
August 7, 2018
School Safety Tax Moved Swiftly Because the Danger Is Real, Say Lexington Students
Zoe Jenkins, Sanaa Kahloon and Santiago O’Neil
A wave of gun threats and confiscations jolted students in Lexington this past spring. In the wake of one such incident at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, one student captured a prevailing sentiment, telling us, “I seriously do not feel safe in school anymore.”
December 11, 2018
Student Voice Team School Safety Testimony
We are here today because we wanted to share back some Kentucky student perspectives about school safety, and we wanted to make the case for why, when it comes to ensuring it, we students can and must be partners in finding and implementing solutions.
December 18, 2018
Survey: Students Accept Reality of New School-Safety Measures
Sadie Bograd, Lily Gardner, Sanaa Kahloon, Emanuelle Sippy, Gabriella Staykova, and Rachel Belin
The Dec. 13 story, “Some Fayette students speak out against metal detectors,” featured student feedback that the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team gathered about Paul Laurence Dunbar High School’s new security measures. But it was not the story we were trying to tell.
February 11, 2020
School Safety Requires a More Comprehensive Approach Than Armed Guards
Last year’s Senate Bill 1, now known as the School Safety and Resiliency Act, was the result of an inter-generational effort to strengthen school safety. A member of the Prichard Committee Student Voice Team served on the School Safety Working Group and invited other students to share testimony and research with the group as they conceived the legislation.
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