Talking Points from KAARPR

Kentucky Senate Bill 8 requires schools to have security officers to carry guns, amending a previous law which did not specify that school officers must be armed. 

This bill supposedly helps to prepare for school shooting incidents, but it has profound negative impacts for vulnerable students in JCPS. 

1. The residents of Jefferson County are best suited to decide how their schools should be made safe, working though our elected school board. 
Legislators who have never visited our school district cannot understand and should not tell us what we need. They don’t know our district and don’t know our negative history with police officers. They don’t know our demographic of students, and they too often fear and stigmatize them.
What may work for smaller white school districts in smaller counties won’t work for all districts with a more diverse population. All schools are not the same. All school districts are not the same. All neighborhoods are not policed the same. Students deal with different realities and therefore needs are different, especially between urban and rural districts. Local school boards are going to know best, most of the time, as to what is required in a particular school.
Requirements that are not informed by the wisdom of people who know the district best will only cause confusion and harm. Some schools need to be police free.

2. The evidence does not say armed school officers in every school in the entire state will make students and teachers safer. 
What is known is that armed school officers in our district have not been and likely will not be tasked to handle school shooters, because these events are rare and thus far do not take place in our schools. These officers are tasked to handle students in conflict or crisis, because teachers are not provided with qualified backup support.

Police officers intervene with students in conflict by using the tools and training they have available: intimidation, shouting, escalating levels of violence, and arrest. They don’t have mental health skills for responding to children, and they don’t know how to deescalate traumatized youth. What they can do is inflame emotions, hurt and injure children, and arrest them.

Nothing has happened to create a break with LMPD’s history and tradition of violent policing toward Black and Brown Louisvillians. SB8 makes our JCPS schools a haven for police officers who are already problems.

3. The history of school shootings in Kentucky suggests that shootings are a problem for predominately white small town and rural communities (Benton, West Paducah) and white students.

One worst-case scenario is that a child or children are shot in school by the officers tasked to protect them. While we have not (yet) experienced this in our district, we have gone through police kills in our neighborhoods with little justice or no justice at all. We know our children are more likely to be viewed as criminals by armed officers than protected by them.

SB8 forces the district to create its own armed police force, hiring retired cops and people straight from the academy. Recent Louisville police academy graduates are often military veterans who have not had time, resources or support for recovery and healing. In some cases, they come fresh from overseas deployment into police work. 

Retired cops may have retired in order to avoid facing consequences for their own racist and violent policing actions, as this is a standard strategy for police departments to deflect investigation and accountability. 

4. The students in our district do not feel that armed police officers are there to make them safe. Some white students may have the possibility of a positive relationship with armed police officers, but there are historical and present-day reasons why Black students can not have the same.

5. Senate Bill 8 will become an unfunded mandate. This bill requires $121M for the state and roughly $18M for districts. Where will the resources come from? The money required for police officers could be better spent elsewhere. No armed officers in our schools is already an improvement, but what if teachers could call at need upon staff with real mental health training and de-escalation skills, staff who don’t further frighten traumatized students?

6. Teachers acknowledge that armed officers disrupt the sense of community and trust they have taken a long time to build, and negatively impacts academic performance. Were our schools not so under-resourced, and teachers not so overwhelmed with class sizes and concentrations of traumatized students, most of our teachers would not consider it because of how vulnerable students are impacted.

As things are now, teachers make use of whatever resources are available to them to manage their classrooms. We need for our teachers to have better choices and qualified staff on hand for all our students to be able to learn.

7. An environment of fear correlates negatively with a child’s ability to learn. Many children in our communities have already witnessed security officer violence visited upon their classmates, first hand and through videos. While all Kentucky educators don’t quite understand or care why armed security officers are so stressful for Black children, all educators do understand on some level that they cannot teach frightened and traumatized children.

There was a highly public situation at Jeffersontown High November 2018 in which officers intervened and escalated a de-escalating situation between Black students. An officer repeatedly, brutally kicked one of the students after other officers had the student restrained; a stun gun was used on a child. This is not how to manage conflict between youth.

The new state budget takes millions away from beneficial efforts, like reading programs for elementary students. The 8 million dollars should go towards helping students learn more efficiently. The money can also be invested in expanding restorative justice practices throughout more schools.

Restorative justice focuses on relationship building and empathy with everyone involved in an incident. Schools in similar districts across the nation, such as Oakland, Brooklyn, and Chicago, have all seen decreases in suspensions with restorative justice.  Oakland, during its first year, decreased suspensions of Black children from 12.7% to 8.8 %.

8. If parents pull their children from schools because they don’t want their kids subject to underqualified officers with batons, stun guns and guns acting in stressful and frightening situations—which has gone wrong in the past and will continue to go wrong— the entire JCPS district suffers financially and in other ways

9. Police training contradicts best practices in child behavior intervention. Officers escalate, dominate, and restrain. They inflict pain and injury until the “suspect” stops moving and stays down. Panicking children struggle. Armed officers with police training do not belong in the same space as a child having a behavioral crisis.

10. Not one child in Kentucky should be harmed in their interactions with school authorities.

Therefore we strongly urge Governor Beshear and the good people of our state to fight for our most vulnerable people in Jefferson County, especially those of color. Veto Senate Bill 8. Send Senate Bill 8 back to the House and Senate, so the amendment that Gerald Neal proposed—allowing for local school board control over guns in schools—to get fair consideration from all members. Encourage them to wait until the end of session to send it back to the chambers for reconsideration. Afford our most vulnerable and impacted people the courtesy of additional time to convey their arguments and concerns, too many to list, as to why the bill should pass only once amended as suggested above.