A new bill was filed in Indiana on Thursday morning that would help keep students safe in their schools.
Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced his support for the bill, which would allow school corporations to hire law enforcement officials to boost security for students in the classroom.
“It’s particularly important that these positions be expanded in light of the tragedy in Connecticut,” Zoeller said. “There could at least be an argument made that not having a school resource officer could make a school a softer target.”
Indiana Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) filed the bill this morning on the Senate floor, saying that it was a first step to protect students, but not an "end-all" solution to school safety issues.
"This proposal would be a first good step to meet an immediate need and expand resource officers into schools that don't already have them, and still give the Legislature and Executive Branch the opportunity to look at other more long-term comprehensive safety options," Miller said.
The bill would set aside $10 million in state money, while allowing public schools to apply for matching grants to hire officers to work in schools.
Zoeller's office completed a needs assessment survey on school safety prior to the Dec. 14 shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and Zoeller said that the results from the survey suggest a need to expand the use of School Resource Officers, both for their expertise in emergency situations, as well as to deter potential threats to students and staff.
According to Zoeller, approximately one-third to one-quarter of Indiana’s schools already use School Resource Officers, who play an important role that extends beyond merely patrolling school halls. Indeed, the also help implement school safety plans while acting as liaisons between school officials and local law enforcement. In addition, School Resource Officers work to stop bullying in schools, as well as leading programs designed to further thwart violence and other criminal activity on campus.
Whether there’s enough bipartisan support for the bill during this legislative session remains to be seen, but it certainly appears to have won approval by those within the educational community.
"I believe that Attorney General Zoeller's and State Senator Miller's proposed legislation to support and expand the School Resource Officer program will help in the identification and prevention of bullying, and ensure that our schools, personnel, and students are safe and secure," said State Superintendent-elect Glenda Ritz.