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Indiana schools, communities take lead on school safety

After several school shootings across the U.S., Indiana communities and school officials say the issue of school safety is so important that they plan on taking matters into their own hands because state lawmakers may be slow to act.

Posted: Jun 18, 2018 10:11 AM

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — After several school shootings across the U.S., Indiana communities and school officials say the issue of school safety is so important that they plan on taking matters into their own hands because state lawmakers may be slow to act.

"We can't wait for the state or federal government," said Danny Tanoos, superintendent at Vigo County School Corporation in Terre Haute. "Because they have a lot of different rules, regulations and hurdles they have to go over."

The issue has erupted in schools across the U.S. in the wake of shootings that killed 17 at a school in Parkland, Florida, and 10 in Santa Fe, Texas. The national headlines hit home last month, when a 13-year-old boy opened fire at a Noblesville middle school, wounding a 13-year-old girl and the science teacher who tackled the boy to stop the shooting.

Now Tanoos' district is one of many across the state that are having internal meetings and public forums to hear from parents and local law enforcement agencies. One topic has been installation of metal detectors. Others have conducted professional active shooter training for staff.

Lawmakers, at the request of Gov. Eric Holcomb, boosted school safety funding by $5 million during May's special session — which Democrats estimate amounts to an additional $7,000 per school. But now leaders of the GOP supermajorities say they are in wait-and-see mode.

House Speaker Brian Bosma recently declined a request from Democrats to add school safety to the topics lawmakers will study during the interim before next year's session.

Both Bosma and Holcomb say they will wait to decide if legislation is needed until after assigned government agencies conducting reports make recommendations, which the earliest is due by August. Bosma, of Indianapolis, also bristled at the suggestion that lawmakers aren't doing enough.

"Indiana is doing more than studying the school safety issue — we are taking action," Bosma said in a statement.

Not everyone agrees.

Democratic House Minority Leader Terry Goodin said what happened in Noblesville should be a "wakeup call."

"I believe it is imperative that state lawmakers take an active role on this issue from the start, and be ready to act on a bipartisan series of initiatives to ensure our schools are truly safe havens," the Austin Democrat said in a letter to Bosma.

In pro-gun Indiana, Republicans for years have touted security and safety measures at schools.

The state has a "red flag" law that allows weapons to be taken from someone if they are a danger to themselves or others. It is also one of only two states that require a certified safety specialist in every school corporation. Indiana created the School Safety Specialist Academy in 1999 to provide the latest training and information on national and state practices.

Yet the money available in the state's school safety grant program, which pays for schools to cover the cost of security equipment and safety resource officers, has not met demand.

There were 390 applicants in 2018 for the grant — up from 247 last year. They are competing for a total of $14 million in matching grants, according to the Department of Homeland Security spokesman David Hosick. School corporations, including public, private and charter schools, can receive $35,000 to $50,000 a year depending on enrollment.

"There are increased interests," Hosick said. "Schools are looking for additional opportunities to get some help to make the school safer and secured."

School districts across the state have been seeking more money and resources on their own.

"We found creative ways to ensure that we can pay for the programming," Tanoos said. He said that in addition to the grant funds, schools in his district have also received money from the city auctioning old assets.

Tanoos said schools need to do more than complain about funding.

"Can you really put a price tag on somebody's live and safety?" he asked.

One possible solution comes from a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that provides a pathway for states to legalize sports betting.

It's far from certain if the Legislature will expand gambling in the state. But if they take action, it could provide funding for school safety improvements, said state Sen. Ron Atling, who chairs the powerful Senate Public Policy committee, which oversees gaming legislation.

"Security in schools is a high priority this session," the Lafayette Republican told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. "This could be a revenue stream to help fund that."

There's still considerable debate over the best way to keep schools safe.

That's in part because there is scant research on the issue, said Jagdish Khubchandani, an associate professor at Ball State University who specializes in community health issues.

Khubchandani said the gun violence issue is complex, which includes parenting practices, gun access at homes and children's mental health.

"You cannot solve a problem if you don't know what's happening," he said.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 35237

Reported Deaths: 2197
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9978592
Lake3689200
Allen171170
Cass15927
Elkhart138428
St. Joseph130934
Hendricks117773
Hamilton117093
Johnson1117110
Madison59461
Porter54729
Bartholomew52138
Clark51941
LaPorte43424
Howard42934
Tippecanoe4184
Jackson3942
Delaware38540
Shelby37522
Hancock34528
Floyd31940
Boone31635
Vanderburgh2842
Morgan28124
Montgomery24416
Noble23821
Clinton2381
White2389
Decatur22531
Grant21923
Dubois2023
Harrison19622
Henry18412
Vigo1718
Dearborn16921
Monroe16912
Greene16925
Warrick16628
Lawrence16524
Kosciusko1561
Miami1411
Putnam1377
Jennings1314
Orange13022
Marshall1282
Scott1213
Franklin1108
Ripley1086
Daviess9416
LaGrange932
Carroll933
Wayne855
Steuben852
Wabash792
Newton7810
Fayette787
Jasper681
Jay530
Washington511
Clay512
Fulton491
Rush483
Randolph483
Pulaski470
Jefferson461
Whitley433
Starke393
DeKalb371
Sullivan361
Owen341
Perry330
Brown331
Benton320
Wells320
Knox290
Huntington282
Blackford272
Tipton251
Crawford240
Fountain222
Switzerland210
Spencer211
Adams201
Gibson172
Parke170
Posey160
Ohio130
Warren121
Martin120
Vermillion100
Union90
Pike60
Unassigned0175

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 122848

Reported Deaths: 5525
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook796733726
Lake8450307
DuPage7818380
Kane6467186
Will5649280
Winnebago231356
McHenry160673
St. Clair117286
Kankakee93050
Kendall81919
Rock Island68324
Champaign6527
Madison59560
Boone47617
DeKalb4225
Sangamon35029
Jackson28910
Randolph2704
Peoria2629
McLean22113
Ogle2143
Stephenson2112
Macon19419
Clinton18817
Union15711
LaSalle15414
Unassigned1470
Whiteside14213
Iroquois1324
Coles12715
Warren1170
Out of IL1151
Grundy1012
Jefferson10116
Knox1010
Monroe9612
McDonough9113
Lee821
Cass740
Tazewell745
Henry690
Williamson682
Pulaski550
Marion500
Jasper467
Macoupin462
Adams441
Perry410
Montgomery401
Vermilion401
Morgan381
Christian354
Livingston342
Jo Daviess320
Douglas280
Jersey241
Fayette213
Woodford212
Ford201
Menard200
Mason180
Washington180
Hancock171
Mercer170
Shelby161
Bureau151
Carroll152
Schuyler130
Bond121
Crawford120
Franklin120
Fulton120
Clark110
Logan110
Moultrie110
Piatt110
Brown100
Cumberland100
Johnson90
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Effingham71
Massac70
Saline70
Greene50
Marshall50
Wabash50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
White20
Calhoun10
Edgar10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
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