Millions of dollars in grants are now available for Indiana school districts seeking temporary funding to pay for school resource officers.
According to state officials, the application period for the second round of Secured School Safety Grants is now open and runs through March 10.
The fund provides matching grants to school districts or charter schools to employ a school resource officer, conduct a threat assessment, or purchase equipment to restrict access to the school.
“School safety is a top priority in Indiana,” said Governor Mike Pence in a written statement. “The Secured School Safety Grant provides schools statewide with the resources to help keep schools a safe place to foster learning and growth.”
Last year, more than $9 million was awarded to schools across the state, according to the Governor’s office.
“We’re making a difference in a lot of communities across the state,” said D.J. Schoeff, a school resource in Carmel who also serves on the Indiana School Resource Officer Association. “Ultimately what we’re looking to do as school resource officers is to be inside the building and build positive relationships with the kids.”
“I have a child in high school and one in middle school so it’s very important to me to keep them safe,” said Davina Franklin, a parent in the Pike township school district. “I don’t want to have to go to work every day worrying about what’s happening at school.”
Last year, state senator Pete Miller, R-Avon, introduced the legislation which led to the school grant program. This year, he has authored new legislation which helps clarify the training that’s required.
“Every school is different (so) we don’t want to dictate to them what the training is, but making those opportunities available is important,” said Miller.
“Training is so critical because your job as a school resource officer is to not go in and make arrests, that’s not your goal,” said Schoeff. “Our goal is to build relationships and help kids make good choices.”
“I think it’s very important,” said Franklin. “I send my kids to school for an education, not to be in fear of their lives, and I think more security would be an excellent idea.”
Miller says he’s hoping to get more funding for the officers during next year’s session.
There’s also legislation in the Senate that would help create state guidelines for newly built schools, with an eye on safety at the front entrance. And there was a bill in the House that would have let local districts put tax levies on the ballot to pay for school safety. That bill didn’t get a hearing, but lawmakers said there’s essentially nothing preventing schools from doing that already.