Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Local News

April 8, 2013

School safety bill weighted down by gun mandate

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

Likely left intact will be the $10 million matching grant fund for local schools and the task force of safety experts charged with finding the “best practices” in school security.

Pence likes that approach and said so, during a Statehouse news conference last week.

“I have a strong bias for local control,” he said. He also cited what he called a model program for school safety developed in Vigo County that could be replicated in other communities.

In January, the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department, the Terre Haute city police, and the Vigo County School Corporation joined forces to create a Safe Schools Task Force. They pulled in support from government, community, and business leaders. Using a combination of school funds, local government dollars, and private contributions, they were able to put 10 special county deputies into rural schools, adding to the existing law enforcement officers in the city schools.

The special deputies are retired or off-duty officers trained as school resource officers; they have full law enforcement powers but also have an understanding of the school environment, the needs of children, and the safety concerns that go beyond fears of an armed intruder.

Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing likes the model. He spent nine years as a school resource officer in a high school and is convinced that the presence of trained police officers inside schools can often stave off issues such as bullying or mental health problems, which result in tragedy if ignored.

“They’re not there as armed guards,” Ewing said. “Their job goes far beyond stopping somebody from coming in with a gun and shooting up a school.”

Rep. Jim Lucas, the Seymour Republican who proposed the mandate amendment said he did so because most of Indiana’s 1,900 public schools are defenseless against possible attackers. Less than one-third of the state’s public schools currently employ school resource officers. And while Indiana law already allows school districts to authorize people other than police officers to have guns on school property, few, if any, school districts have done so.

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