Study committee explores issue of school safety in Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.– A group of state lawmakers spent time studying the issue of school safety Thursday, coming together for the first of two summer study hearings on the issue.

Still, one member of the committee said two meetings wasn’t nearly enough.

“It’s not, certainly it’s not with everything that’s been happening with regards to safety and schools,” said state Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond.

Rep. Lawson, a former police officer, said the issue needed to be studied more closely.

“We could have met in June or July or August, and now we’ve got two days left in August,” Rep. Lawson said. “There’s so many things we could have addressed.”

The committee chair, state Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, called those concerns “fair criticism,” but said it was possible the committee might hold more than two meetings.

“If we find out we need to another meeting in October, I’m happy to do that,” Sen. Miller said. “(The shootings in) Connecticut taught us that these types of things can happen anywhere, and no one is immune from it. We’ll take every precaution we can.”

Miller authored a bill during this year’s legislative session which created grants to pay for more school resource officers. Districts have already begun applying for the grants, but Miller said the money had yet to be distributed.

Some lawmakers had pushed for a stronger law, requiring an armed officer or employee in every Indiana school, but that amendment was struck down.

“I’m very much in favor of armed, well-trained officers,” said Chuck Hibbert, a school safety consultant. “I’m just as opposed to arming classroom teachers and administrators.”

Hibbert was also critical of the summer study committee’s timing.

“First of all, I think it’s interesting the word summer is even attached here,” Hibbert said. “We are just a few days from Labor Day, and they’ve had their first meeting.”

(Technically, the committees are called “interim” study committees, but are often referred to by lawmakers and others as “summer” study committees.)

“Sometimes I think politicians aren’t the best ones to deal with these things,” said parent Renee Foor. “If I saw more officers in the school, I’d be comfortable with it if I thought it’d keep my kids safer, but I’m probably more comfortable with those decisions being made by the school and not legislated down.”

The governor’s office put together its own study committee to look at the issue of school safety. That group turned its findings over to the governor earlier this month.

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