Beshear lets school ‘guardians’ bill become law without his signature

Republished from Kentucky Lantern


Kentucky school districts will have the option of employing armed “guardians” to fill vacant law enforcement positions on campuses under a bill that became law Tuesday without Gov. Andy Beshear’s signature. 

Senate Bill 2 is a Republican-backed measure that built upon a bipartisan school safety law that was passed in 2019 after a shooting at Marshall County High School. Sponsored by Sen. Max Wise, of Campbellsville, this year’s legislation establishes the school “guardians” program while strengthening support for mental health resources. 

Beshear, a Democrat who recently won reelection in Kentucky, signed the 2019 law. He also signed a 2022 law requiring a school resource officer (SRO), a type of sworn law enforcement officer, on each campus in Kentucky. 

However, school districts have struggled to meet that requirement. Wise said while introducing his legislation this session that about 600 school campuses do not have SROs. School districts may begin using “guardians” during the 2025-26 school year. School districts may also choose to have “guardians” in schools as unpaid volunteers instead of employees. 

SB 2 had no additional funding tied to it when it was filed, but the legislature appropriated money for SROs in its budget bill —  $16.5 million in the first fiscal year and then $18 million the following year. House Bill 6,  the executive branch budget bill, says the Kentucky Department of Education would reimburse school districts up to $20,000 for each school that employs a full-time, on-site SRO. 

“We’ve learned so much about the power of additional adults with very specific training who can help keep our schools safe,” Wise said in a statement after the bill passed out of the Senate. “SB 2 complements our SROs with another set of eyes on campus or may help provide additional coverage on a school with multiple campuses.”  

The law says that certified guardians can be honorably discharged military veterans and retired or former law enforcement officers. The Kentucky Center for School Safety would certify such persons. They may carry a firearm on school property if the school district chooses. 

Florida has a school “guardian” program. Similar legislation passed in Utah this year. 

Additionally, the law directs trauma-informed teams in schools to assist school employees who work with students who have experienced trauma and record an annual report about its activities throughout the school year. 

The House Education Committee had approved an amendment backed by Rep. Josh Calloway, R-Irvington, to the bill that would have allowed pastoral counselors to serve on trauma-informed teams in schools but it is not in the final law. The amendment was not called for a floor vote in the House. 

Throughout the session, members of the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action spoke against the bill. Volunteer Cathy Hobart told the House Education Committee that “armed guards in our schools will give many people the illusion of safety, but there is no evidence that they actually provide any safety.” 

According to a report from The Trace, there are “only a handful of documented cases in which an armed security guard or stationed police officer has stopped a school shooting.” 

In response to the bill becoming law, Kirby Van Lierop, a volunteer with the Kentucky chapter of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement to the Kentucky Lantern it was “yet another example of how the gun lobby’s ‘guns everywhere’ agenda has taken over the meaning of public safety in our state,” and called allowing more guns in school a “dangerous and misguided idea.” 

“We’re disappointed that our lawmakers spent this legislative session working overtime to pass this bill rather than actually passing preventative gun safety measures that would keep our children safe in school,” Van Lierop said. “But we won’t be deterred — we’ll continue to fight for common sense policies that will keep guns out of our schools and out of the hands of those who could be a danger to themselves and others. That’s what will really help keep our children safe.” 

Beshear also allowed another gun-related measure to become law without his signature. Senate Bill 20 requires that juveniles, 15 or older, accused of having a gun during the commission of an alleged felony be automatically transferred to circuit court for trial as an adult. The bill allows the commonwealth’s attorney to return the case to district court after determining that it would be in the best interest of “the public and the child to do so.”


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