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Armed ‘guardians’ could patrol Kentucky schools under measure OK’d in Senate committee

The exterior of the Kentucky Capitol
J. Tyler Franklin
Senate Bill 2 also mandates two suicide prevention lessons per school year for grades 6-12, along with suicide prevention trainings for school staff who work with grades 4 and up.

The Kentucky Senate Education Committee moved forward a bill that could create a force of armed veterans and retired police to protect schools.

Kentucky schools could bring in armed veterans and retired police officers to patrol campuses under a measure that advanced through the state Senate Education Committee Thursday.

Senate Bill 2 would allow districts to bring in so-called “guardians.” They would be trained to protect school campuses, especially in active shooter situations. They could be paid by districts or work on a volunteer basis.

Bill sponsor Republican Sen. Max Wise of Campbellsville told the committee guardians are meant for schools that can’t find enough school resource officers due to personnel shortages and funding issues.

“They [the guardians] are simply a stop-gap measure to help a school district that could not provide an SRO beginning in the 2025-26 school year,” he said

Wise said the measure has support from Brian Cope, the father of Preston Cope, one of two students killed in the 2018 Marshall County High School shooting.

Opponents, however, say there is little evidence showing armed guards make schools safer, and argue for stricter gun laws instead.

Kentucky activist Cathy Hobart pointed the committee to research showing SROs don’t prevent shootings. She also mentioned the 2022 shooting in Uvalde, Texas, during which dozens of officers arrived at Robb Elementary School but did not intervene.

How many armed people were there that day, standing outside the door where the shooter was, and those kids were dying inside that room? There has to be a different solution to this problem,” Hobart said.

One 2021 study even found that the presence of armed SROs correlates to a higher mortality rate in school shootings.

There are, however, some anecdotal accounts of armed law enforcement officers averting possible mass shootings or mitigating casualties. Those reports include one incident in Louisville in 2019, when two SROs caught a suspended student sneaking a ballistic vest inside Valley High School. The student was arrested carrying a firearm and ammo, according to police.

Hobart urged lawmakers to consider measures filed almost annually by Democrats that would create tighter regulations around gun storage, “red flag” laws and background checks. Those proposals have historically received little to no consideration in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

Lexington Sen. Reggie Thomas, a Democrat, agreed that gun laws are the answer.

“We're going to continue to see more and more of these incidents until we stop having huge gun access and gun violence in this country,” Thomas said.

Thomas ultimately voted in favor of moving SB 2 to the floor. So did the majority of the GOP-led committee.

One Republican with a law enforcement background, Benton Sen. Danny Carroll, voted against SB 2, citing concerns about training for school guardians and the fast-tracking of veterans, who Carroll said have “a different mission” than civilian law enforcement.

His comments echoed concerns voiced by another Republican when the proposal was brought to a different committee for discussion last year.

Carroll noted that school shootings — which he called the “worst-case scenario” — are very unlikely, and said the state should have a “plan” for how guardians would be expected to act when encountering fights and other common school-based conflicts.

Alexandria Republican Sen. Shelley Funke Frommeyer said members of the Fraternal Order of Police reached out to her with concerns about training required for guardians.

A spokesperson for the Kentucky FOP declined to comment on the measure.

In addition to the guardian proposal, SB 2 also mandates two suicide prevention lessons per school year for grades 6-12, along with suicide prevention trainings for school staff who work with grades 4 and up.

Jess Clark is LPMs Education and Learning Reporter. Email Jess at