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.