After Kentucky lawmakers passed bipartisan school safety legislation, the state’s new school safety marshal is about to get started in the role.
Ben Wilcox, who begins in the new role on July 1, talked at a Kentucky School Boards Association meeting Friday about the position and what security changes it will bring for schools.
“We can’t be any more pleased partnering with the Department of Criminal Justice Training and with this gentleman here to help our schools be a little safer,” Jon Akers, the executive director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety, said about Wilcox.
Wilcox’s role was created by Senate Bill 1, legislation designed to bolster student safety in the wake of a school shooting in January 2018 that left two students dead. The bill outlines school security mandates that focus on bringing more mental health supports and student resource officers into schools, in addition to Wilcox’s efforts.
In his new role, he will focus on getting schools to comply with required school security measures. This includes compliance with the following:
- School emergency and crisis preparedness training
- Security, crime and violence prevention policies and procedures
- Physical security measures
- Professional development training needs
- Supports service roles in school safety, security and emergency planning
- SRO staffing, operational practices
- School and community collaboration on school security
- Analysis of the cost-effectiveness of recommended physical security controls
SB 1 requires Wilcox to develop a school security risk assessment tool by July 1, 2020, but that has already been created, he said Friday.
In the system, the state will be separated into four regions. The state will have two working compliance supervisors, 12 compliance officers and one program coordinator overseeing the efforts.
The risk assessment tool will be used as a checklist to evaluate security and safety at each school. Schools will first receive the risk assessment tool and will be able to self-check their school. Following that, a compliance officer will do a scheduled walk-through of each school, Wilcox said.
The actual compliance examination won’t happen until after that scheduled walk-through. Following that, a compliance officer will return and do an unannounced security check, Wilcox said.
Wilcox worked in law enforcement for his entire career before being named to the position. He got a degree in police administration from Eastern Kentucky University and then started working for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in 1999. While there, he served as a school resource officer at Montgomery County Schools shortly after the Columbine shooting.
“I was a school resource officer for six years there,” Wilcox said. “You had to drag me out of that school because I loved it so much.”
He then accepted a job with the Department of Criminal Justice Training in 2004. During his time there, he provided services in multiple training disciplines. His new job is still part of the DOJCT, which is on EKU’s campus.