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School Safety

Renee Shaw and guests discuss school safety. Guests: State Senator Max Wise (R-Campbellsville); State Senator Reggie Thomas (D-Lexington); Ryan Straw, Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police; Chris Barrier, chief of police, Montgomery County School District; Cathy Hobart, Moms Demand Action Kentucky; and Rhonda Caldwell, Ed.D., executive director, Kentucky Association of School Administrators.
Season 30 Episode 42 Length 56:33 Premiere: 03/11/24

About

Kentucky Tonight

KET’s Kentucky Tonight, hosted by Renee Shaw, brings together an expert panel for in-depth analysis of major issues facing the Commonwealth.

This weekly program features comprehensive discussions with lawmakers, stakeholders and policy leaders that are moderated by award-winning journalist Renee Shaw.

For nearly three decades, Kentucky Tonight has been a source for complete and balanced coverage of the most urgent and important public affairs developments in the state of Kentucky.

Often aired live, viewers are encouraged to participate by submitting questions in real-time via email, Twitter or KET’s online form. Viewers with questions and comments may send an email to kytonight@ket.org or use the contact form. All messages should include first and last name and town or county. The phone number for viewer calls during the program is 800-494-7605.

After the broadcast, Kentucky Tonight programs are available on KET.org and via podcast (iTunes or Android). Files are normally accessible within 24 hours after the television broadcast.

Kentucky Tonight was awarded a 1997 regional Emmy by the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. The series was also honored with a 1995 regional Emmy nomination.

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Renee Shaw is the Director of Public Affairs and Moderator at KET, currently serving as host of KET’s weeknight public affairs program Kentucky Edition, the signature public policy discussion series Kentucky Tonight, the weekly interview series Connections, Election coverage and KET Forums.

Since 2001, Renee has been the producing force behind KET’s legislative coverage that has been recognized by the Kentucky Associated Press and the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Under her leadership, KET has expanded its portfolio of public affairs content to include a daily news and information program, Kentucky Supreme Court coverage, townhall-style forums, and multi-platform program initiatives around issues such as opioid addiction and youth mental health.  

Renee has also earned top awards from the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS), with three regional Emmy awards. In 2023, she was inducted into the Silver Circle of the NATAS, one of the industry’s highest honors recognizing television professionals with distinguished service in broadcast journalism for 25 years or more.  

Already an inductee into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame (2017), Renee expands her hall of fame status with induction into Western Kentucky University’s Hall of Distinguished Alumni in November of 2023.  

In February of 2023, Renee graced the front cover of Kentucky Living magazine with a centerfold story on her 25 years of service at KET and even longer commitment to public media journalism. 

In addition to honors from various educational, civic, and community organizations, Renee has earned top honors from the Associated Press and has twice been recognized by Mental Health America for her years-long dedication to examining issues of mental health and opioid addiction.  

In 2022, she was honored with Women Leading Kentucky’s Governor Martha Layne Collins Leadership Award recognizing her trailblazing path and inspiring dedication to elevating important issues across Kentucky.   

In 2018, she co-produced and moderated a 6-part series on youth mental health that was awarded first place in educational content by NETA, the National Educational Telecommunications Association. 

She has been honored by the AKA Beta Gamma Omega Chapter with a Coretta Scott King Spirit of Ivy Award; earned the state media award from the Kentucky Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2019; named a Charles W. Anderson Laureate by the Kentucky Personnel Cabinet in 2019 honoring her significant contributions in addressing socio-economic issues; and was recognized as a “Kentucky Trailblazer” by the University of Kentucky Martin School of Public Policy and Administration during the Wendell H. Ford Lecture Series in 2019. That same year, Shaw was named by The Kentucky Gazette’s inaugural recognition of the 50 most notable women in Kentucky politics and government.  

Renee was bestowed the 2021 Berea College Service Award and was named “Unapologetic Woman of the Year” in 2021 by the Community Action Council.   

In 2015, she received the Green Dot Award for her coverage of domestic violence, sexual assault & human trafficking. In 2014, Renee was awarded the Anthony Lewis Media Award from the KY Department of Public Advocacy for her work on criminal justice reform. Two Kentucky governors, Republican Ernie Fletcher and Democrat Andy Beshear, have commissioned Renee as a Kentucky Colonel for noteworthy accomplishments and service to community, state, and nation.  

A former adjunct media writing professor at Georgetown College, Renee traveled to Cambodia in 2003 to help train emerging journalists on reporting on critical health issues as part of an exchange program at Western Kentucky University. And, she has enterprised stories for national media outlets, the PBS NewsHour and Public News Service.  

Shaw is a 2007 graduate of Leadership Kentucky, a board member of CASA of Lexington, and a longtime member of the Frankfort/Lexington Chapter of The Links Incorporated, an international, not-for-profit organization of women of color committed to volunteer service. She has served on the boards of the Kentucky Historical Society, Lexington Minority Business Expo, and the Board of Governors for the Ohio Valley Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. 

Host Renee Shaw smiling in a green dress with a KET set behind her.

Panelists Discuss Legislation in the 2024 General Assembly Expanding Security Options for Schools

In the wake of the 2018 Marshall County High School shooting that left two students dead and more than a dozen injured, the Kentucky legislature passed a law that requires school districts to have an armed law enforcement officer on each campus across the commonwealth.

But in the five years since passage of the School Safety and Resiliency Act, many districts have struggled to meet that mandate to hire school resource officers or SROs. Some have been unable to find enough qualified applicants, while others simply lack the funding to pay them. There are currently 789 SROs working in the state’s public schools, according to the Kentucky Center for School Safety. Most of them are employed by local sheriff or police departments, with the remainder employed by the schools. But about 40 percent of districts still have no SROs.

Now the General Assembly is considering a proposal to allow districts to have armed guardians patrol schools that lack SROs or at schools that want to supplement the SROs they do have.

“We are not replacing an SRO,” says Sen. Max Wise (R-Campbellsville), who is sponsor of the measure. “However, there’s going to be some districts, even with funding, that may not be (able) to cover every campus that that district has... This is another way to provide that security.”

Under Senate Bill 2, school guardians would be drawn from retired law enforcement officers or honorably discharged military veterans. Guardian applicants would have to undergo background checks, medical and psychological evaluations, and drug testing. They would also be required to complete training on marksmanship and responding to active shooter situations.

“We’re not just simply saying, ‘Hey, you want to be a guardian? Here’s your gun, protect the school,’” says Wise. “There are safeguards put into place with this bill.”

Finally, guardians would have to complete the first of three levels of training required of SROs. That level-one instruction focuses on working in school settings, de-escalating student conflicts, and dealing with special-needs youth. While guardians would receive some of the same training as school resource officers, they would not have the same authority as SROs, says Chris Barrier, chief of the Montgomery County School District Police Department. For example, SROs have power to arrest students but guardians would not.

“That’s what we would prefer, them to not act as police officers because they’re not trained like we are” says Barrier.

The choice of whether to use armed guardians – and what, if anything, they are paid – would be left up to local school officials, and Kentucky Association of School Administrators Executive Director Rhonda Caldwell says she trusts district administrators and school boards to do what’s best for their communities. With student misconduct a growing concern, she says school security is an important issue.

“The job of schooling is education, and a child has to feel safe before he or she can really learn,” says Caldwell.

Concerns about Training, Funding, and Effectiveness

The lower training requirements for guardians worries opponents of SB 2. Sen. Reggie Thomas (D- Lexington) says having law enforcement or military experience doesn’t necessarily qualify a guardian to work in a school setting surrounded by children. He fears SB 2 could make schools less safe, saying an armed guardian might inadvertently exacerbate conflicts, not diffuse them.

“They may have the mindset of thinking... I’m a hired gun,” says Thomas. “They won’t see themselves as an educator, they won’t see themselves as a counselor, they won’t see themselves as someone who’s there to help students and try to lead them on the right path.”

Because interacting with a guardian might be the first encounter a child has with any type of law enforcement, Jack Straw says it’s critical that the guardians are properly prepared to work in schools.

“If we’re going to train them to be interacting with students and having those positive interactions, let’s get them a little more training,” says Straw, who is vice president of the Kentucky State Fraternal Order of Police. “Let’s get them set up to be an SRO.”

The School Safety and Resiliency Act provided no funding for school districts to hire for SROs. Wise says he hopes lawmakers will include money for them in this year’s state budget. Similarly, SB 2 does not provide funding for armed guardians. Since school security is so important, Straw says lawmakers need to step up with the needed dollars.

“Why not fund an SRO program?” Straw says. “Let’s just do it.”

Opponents also question whether the presence of SROs or armed guardians actually prevent gun deaths at schools. Cathy Hobart of Moms Demand Action Kentucky says there have even been cases of SROs leaving their weapons unattended or accidently discharging them. She contends simply putting more armed adults in schools won’t make children feel safer.

“What we need to do is to think about what are some other measures that we can be taking to prevent gun violence before it ever gets to the school door,” says Hobart. “The kinds of things that we know could actually get guns out of the hands of these people that are dangerous, our legislators will not discuss them.”

Such measures include safe storage laws that require gun owners to secure their weapons where children can’t access them. Hobart also points to Senate Bill 13, which would create a mechanism to temporarily remove firearms from an individual deemed by the court to be an imminent threat to themselves or others. Neither of those proposals have gained traction among state lawmakers.

As an SRO himself, Barrier says the guardian proposal is merely a stopgap measure to protect students in schools that can’t yet hire fully trained SROs.

“I think people feel safer when they know that there’s somebody there that’s willing and capable and committed to taking an act of violence on themselves so that they can be protected,” says Barrier.

Student Mental Health and School Security

In addition to allowing schools to use armed guardians, SB 2 has provisions on student mental health and school security. The legislation calls for two suicide prevention lessons a year for children in grades 6 through 12 as well as suicide prevention training for school staff. It also calls upon SROs, school counselors, and social workers to collect data on student mental health needs and services provided, and then report that information to the state each year. Wise says that will help lawmakers better know the needs of students and schools that should be addressed

School counselors will also be required to spend 60 percent of their time providing direct services to students. Counselors, social workers, and community-based providers of mental health services would be expected to collaborate on trauma-informed care for students.

Finally, the legislation calls for electronic mapping of all school buildings. These maps would aid first responders reacting to a shooting or other crisis at a school.

SB 2 passed the Senate on a 28 to 10 vote on March 5. It awaits further action by the House Education Committee.

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Season 30 Episodes

Reviewing the 2024 General Assembly

S30 E44 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 04/15/24

Final Negotiations on the State Budget

S30 E43 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/25/24

School Safety

S30 E42 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/11/24

Early Childhood Education

S30 E41 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/26/24

Abortion Legislation

S30 E40 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/19/24

School Choice and Education Issues

S30 E39 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/12/24

State Budget Discussion

S30 E38 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/05/24

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) in Higher Education

S30 E37 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/29/24

Safer Kentucky Act

S30 E36 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 01/22/24

Legislative Priorities in the 2024 General Assembly

S30 E35 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 01/08/24

Governor Andy Beshear's Budget Address

S30 E34 Length 56:36 Premiere Date 12/18/23

2024 Legislative Preview: Part Two

S30 E33 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 12/04/23

2024 Legislative Preview

S30 E32 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 11/20/23

Analysts Discuss What to Expect on Election Day 2023

S30 E31 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 11/06/23

Candidate Conversations: Lieutenant Governor

S30 E30 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/30/23

Candidate Conversations: Governor

S30 E29 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/23/23

Political Analysts Forecast the 2023 General Election

S30 E28 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/17/23

Secretary of State; Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E27 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/09/23

Auditor of Public Accounts; State Treasurer

S30 E26 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 10/02/23

Kentucky's Economy, Jobs and Taxes

S30 E25 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/25/23

Higher Education in Kentucky

S30 E24 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/18/23

Kentucky's Health Care Challenges

S30 E23 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 09/11/23

Education Issues in Kentucky

S30 E22 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 08/21/23

Fancy Farm Preview and Kentucky Politics

S30 E21 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 07/31/23

Kentucky's Energy Needs

S30 E20 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/17/23

Artificial Intelligence

S30 E19 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 07/10/23

Jobs, Inflation and the Economy

S30 E18 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/26/23

SB 150 and LGBTQ Issues

S30 E17 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 06/19/23

Horse Racing Safety

S30 E16 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 06/12/23

A Discussion of Gun Laws

S30 E15 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 06/05/23

Recapping The 2023 Kentucky Primary

S30 E14 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 05/22/23

2023 Primary Election Preview

S30 E13 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 05/15/23

Republican Candidate for Secretary of State

S30 E12 Length 15:00 Premiere Date 05/08/23

Republican Candidates for Governor

S30 E11 Length 1:29:20 Premiere Date 05/01/23

Candidates for Treasurer and Commissioner of Agriculture

S30 E10 Length 1:15:06 Premiere Date 04/24/23

Challenges Facing Kentucky Schools

S30 E9 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/17/23

Policy Analysts Recap the 2023 General Assembly

S30 E8 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 04/10/23

Recap of the 2023 Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E7 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 04/03/23

Kentucky Legislation on LGBTQ+ Youth

S30 E6 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 03/20/23

Student Discipline Legislation

S30 E5 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 03/13/23

Gambling Proposals in the Kentucky General Assembly

S30 E4 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/27/23

Kentucky's Teacher Shortage

S30 E3 Length 56:33 Premiere Date 02/20/23

Exploring Local Government Issues

S30 E2 Length 56:35 Premiere Date 02/13/23

Child Abuse and Neglect in Kentucky

S30 E1 Length 56:34 Premiere Date 02/06/23

See All Episodes

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