Greg Zoeller, Indiana's attorney general, praised Vigo County for taking the initiative in placing school resource officers in its schools. He made this statement at a press conference held at the Vigo County School Corporation's Administration building Wednesday.
“Leave it to the citizens and politicians of Vigo County to take the initiative,” Zoeller told conference attendees this afternoon.
Zoeller read about the plan and newspapers, and expressed the hope other counties in Indiana would follow Vigo County's example in putting school resource officers into other school corporations.
Sheriff Greg Ewing and Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse proposed the plan after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. The Vigo County School Board approved their plan at the February 11 meeting, but the county council needs to approve the measure before it will take effect. Another organization, the Vigo County Retired Teacher's Association, sought permission to hold a gun buyback program after the Newtown shooting.
“Every Hoosier child deserves to be in a safe and welcoming environment,” said Zoeller during the meeting.
The Indiana state legislature drafted legislation to fund the placement of SROs last year. Senate Bill 1, which is currently before the state legislature, also provides a legal definition of an SRO and provides the legal structure needed for such a program. If the bill passes, school corporations can apply for grants of up to $50,000.
The attorney general’s study commissioned a study to gauge public reactions to SROs in 2012. Over 60% of parents and guardians supported such a measure, and 80% of school administrators expressed their approval. Parents cited students bringing weapons to school as the primary concern, although bullying, fighting and drug abuse also ranked high among parental concerns, according to a press release from the Attorney General's office..
Superintendent George Tanoos quoted Mel Burks and reminded those president that people needed to stay focusssed on mental illness. stated many of the shooters in the recent incidents suffered from sever mental illnesses. Zoeller addressed the mental health issue briefly. SROs can serve as an early warning system, according to the attorney general. Students can bring their concerns about weapons, bullying, and drug use to the officer.
“[It's] kind of sad to think about having a press conference on this topic,” said Tanoos. He said many parents of Sandy Hook Elementary school expected their students to return the day of the shooting. Tanoos believes educators need to take responsibility for keeping the children safe.