Johnson County Lawmakers: Keeping our schools safe

Posted by: Samantha Holifield & Brenda Holmes  | Tuesday, July 17, 2018 2:56 pm

Note to the editor: This guest column is submitted by State Reps. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland), Dave Frizzell (R-Indianapolis), Chris May (R-Bedford) and John Young (R-Franklin), who each represent portions of Johnson County.

In the coming weeks, many students and educators will be heading back to the classroom for a new school year. While this is an exciting time, some may have questions about the steps being taken to ensure the safety of our children and those who dedicate their lives to educating our future leaders. School safety continues to be a top priority for state lawmakers as we build on our policies and offer a variety of resources to better ensure our children learn and grow in a safe environment.

Indiana has several safeguards in place to ensure students and educators are better protected at school. Our state has been highlighted as a national leader for implementing and investing in school safety policies by the Security Industry Association. We are among only five states with a “red flag” law, which allows firearms to be taken from individuals a court determines to be dangerous to themselves or others.

One of the most critical components to being prepared for an emergency is training. We are one of only a few states in the country to operate a School Safety Specialist Academy, which has trained and certified nearly 2,500 specialists at no cost to local schools. Indiana is 1 of 2 states to require every school district to employ a certified specialist who is trained annually on best safety practices. Additionally, each school must have a school safety plan and an assigned full- or part-time school resource officer in the district. These law enforcement officers have completed specialized training to protect the school community and have full police powers. The state also offers assistance and training for educators and staff on safety drills and building security protocols. And, while perhaps not widely known, local school boards do have the option to authorize specific teachers or administrators who are legally allowed to possess a firearm to carry while on school property.

This year we also worked with the governor, the Indiana State Police and the Indiana Department of Education to find ways to further improve our school safety policies. 

In addition to the nearly $45 million Indiana has already invested toward the Secured School Safety Grant Program, we supported a new law providing an additional $5 million to help schools across the state employ school resource officers, conduct threat assessments and purchase security equipment. 

Each school corporation will also update their safety plans filed with the DOE. Along with onsite district safety reviews, every school’s safety plan will be audited by the DOE with the voluntary assistance of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, state police and local law enforcement. This collaborative exercise will provide constructive feedback to further secure our schools. Furthermore, the Secured School Safety Board will be conducting a statewide review and will issue recommendations before next year’s legislative session.

In the past, some active shooters have pulled a school’s fire alarm in order to fill the hallways with students. To help prevent copycat attacks, the new law also gives schools updated evacuation guidelines in the event of an unexpected fire alarm. If an unplanned alarm goes off, school staff would have the option to block or barricade a door for up to three minutes while a designated official investigates the alarm. Without this flexibility, quick-thinking faculty and staff could be violating state fire safety laws. 

More recently, it was announced every school in Indiana can receive hand-held metal detector devices at no cost. Schools that request these devices will begin receiving detectors by mid-August, with requests continuing to be filled through the fall. This new program is just one of many safety resources available to schools.

Moving forward, it is clear we need to continue providing resources and training to keep students and educators safe while they are at school. This will remain a top priority as we continue to collaborate with local and state leaders to ensure steps are taken to protect Hoosier students. If you have any questions or input about laws in place to keep students and educators safe, please contact our offices at 317-232-9600.

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State Rep. Woody Burton (R-Whiteland) represents House District 58,

which includes a portion of Johnson County.

A high-resolution photo of Burton can be downloaded by clicking here.

 

State Rep. Dave Frizzell (R-Indianapolis) represents House District 93,

which includes a portion of Marion and Johnson counties.

A high-resolution photo of Frizzell can be downloaded by clicking here.

 

State Rep. Chris May (R-Bedford) represents House District 65,

which includes Brown County and portions of Lawrence, Jackson, Johnson and Monroe counties.

A high-resolution photo of May can be downloaded by clicking here.

 

State Rep. John Young (R-Franklin) represents House District 47,

which includes portions of Johnson and Morgan counties.

A high-resolution photo of Young can be downloaded by clicking here.