School safety study resolution advances to full Indiana Senate

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A push to study safety and security in Indiana schools moved one step closer to reality Wednesday.

The Indiana Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law voted 7-0 to advance Senate Resolution 43, which would urge the legislative council to assign the topic of school safety to a summer study committee.

The resolution’s author, Senator James Tomes (R, Posey County), says he wants the study to take input from anyone and everyone who has training and knowledge of how to make Indiana schools safer. He says the conversation could include discussions related to gun laws, but would not be limited to that.

“Safety features in our schools, construction, even retro-fitting some of our schools we currently have now,” Tomes said. “What can we do, go back to those schools and see that we can maybe secure them more than we have.”

The push comes on the heels of the Florida school shooting that left 17 people dead, and several recent threats at central Indiana schools.

The Florida mass shooting has reignited debate about whether teachers should be armed in the classroom. The Indiana State Teachers Association strongly opposes arming teachers. They want any study to key in on topics related to mental health issues.

“Helping teachers to identify students in need, and then making sure they’re able to get them to the resources needed so that a student doesn’t suddenly make a tragic decision,” said ISTA Vice President, Keith Gambill.

While discussions could include building security equipment and procedures, the Indiana School Resource Officers Association hopes the study will focus on the people who keep schools safe. ISROA 1st Vice President, Chase Lyday wants all schools to hire police officers who have been through special school resource officer training. He says state law recommends schools hire certified resource officers, but the law does not require it.

“We have officers who go through the sate mandated training to be called a school resource officer,” Lyday said. “Others are just road officers who spend their extra time or their part time in a school building.”

Lyday says resource officer training better prepares officers to develop relationships with students and staff members, making them more able to handle various situations that arise inside schools.

“We have to focus on people, not the equipment that would keep people safe or would harm people,” Lyday said. “We have to focus on the people that drive those initiatives.”

Senator Tomes says he wants the summer study to result in fresh guidelines and recommendations for schools, as opposed to mandates. The guidelines could be offered to private schools that don’t take state funding, he said.

“It wouldn’t do us any good to impose a school to do something they can’t afford to do anyway,” Tomes said.

The resolution now moves to the full Senate for consideration on second reading. It’s expected to be on the Senate calendar as early as Monday.