Recommendations to improve school safety in Indiana include required active shooter drills, school safety hub

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A group tasked with studying school safety released its wide-ranging report to boost safety across Indiana.

The working group submitted its report to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who released it to the public Friday. The report includes 18 recommendations for districts across Indiana. The recommendations come from more than 400 responses collected from first responders, public safety officials, school administrators and others through interviews, online surveys and community forums.

The governor called for the study in the wake of the February shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Seventeen students and staff members were killed, while more than a dozen were wounded.

Some of the notable recommendations include a mandate for all schools to conduct active shooter drills, enhanced mental health services, the development of an “Indiana School Safety Hub” and an increase in the School Safety Fund to cover expenditures, such as the addition of more school resource officers.

The recommendations fall under three broad categories:

  • Enhanced mental health services
  • Safety equipment, technology, tools, and training
  • Policy or legislative considerations regarding school safety

The report “does little to address gun safety concerns,” the group wrote, saying those aspects fell outside of the scope of its mission. “We felt this topic would be better addressed by legislators and other policymakers who have more time to research and evaluate the varying viewpoints on the topic and broader jurisdiction over these types of rules, regulations, and statutes governing guns.”

Here’s a look at the group’s findings:

Mental Health Recommendations

  • Direct the FSSA to identify and provide schools with a universal and effective mental health screening tool, which would evaluate a student on an individual basis and allow the school to take personalized preventative action.
  • Direct FSSA to provide more training to educators on mental health risk factor recognition; direct schools to implement the mental health first aid program and report the progress (via a shared report) to FSSA and DOE.
  • Require schools to provide a baseline level of professional mental health support to students and families through community mental health centers (CMHC) or providers.
  • Direct FSSA to lead a statewide mental health programming initiative to provide supplemental, evidence-based, preventative programming to students in schools.
  • Endorse PsySTART as the preferred mental health emergency response model and train communities to use PsySTART in emergencies.
  • Implement and require the CDC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS) as the singular risk behavior surveillance tool in Indiana high schools.

Equipment technology and training

  • Enhance technology related to school safety by investing in the development of a school safety technology site or “Indiana School Safety Hub.”
  • Direct the Integrated Public Safety Commission (IPSC) to develop a self-evaluation tool for schools to determine the current posture of their communication capabilities.
  • Incorporate school safety and risk factor recognition training into new teacher training programs.
  • Initiate the development and use of an anonymous, statewide reporting tip line.
  • Ensure the state fire marshal provides additional guidance to assist schools with preparing for modern-day threats while remaining in compliance with code.

Policy or legislative considerations

  • Amend Indiana code to require active shooter drills in every school
  • Assure the overall sustainability for funding for school safety grants
  • Revise the current match requirement and award formula of the Secured School Fund with the goal of expanding accessibility to all schools; better define and promote the availability of donations or matching options.
  • Broaden the scope of eligible projects under secured school fund; amend Ind. code 10-21 to allow for the employment of either an SRO or law enforcement officer.
  • Consolidate funding sources for school safety grants.
  • Require schools to conduct a threat assessment by June 30, 2021.
  • Direct legislative changes to support sharing of data between various organizations.

Gov. Holcomb said several steps are being undertaken in line with the recommendations, including the creation of an online Indiana school safety hub, the development of an anonymous tip line from Indiana State Police, guidance for schools regarding unplanned fire alarms and the development of a self-evaluation tool to maximize the effectiveness of school communications systems and activities.

In addition, Holcomb said the Indiana State Budget Agency will work to identify costs associated with the recommendations and how they might be funded, with local, state and federal resources being examined.

The state has also distributed more than 3,200 metal detectors to 369 schools that requested them. The first round will arrive in schools later this month. Schools that didn’t place an order will have the chance to do so in the fall.

You can read the report in its entirety here.