The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School last month is sparking changes here in Indiana.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller announced his support on Thursday for a bill that encourages school corporations to work in conjunction with local police and sheriff’s departments to place additional law enforcement officers in schools.
The bill, introduced by Republican State Senator Pete Miller would provide grants from the state to fund the added school resource officers-full-time law enforcement officials that are assigned to schools to bolster security, assist with discipline, and serve as mentors.
“This proposal would be a good first 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 legislation would create uniform standards and duties for the officers, and would provide grants to schools that do not have the funds to have such programs in place as long as they are matched by the school corporations.
Funding would be limited to up to $50,000 per school district, but, that could change as lawmakers consider the measure in their upcoming session. The bill would set aside $10 million total for school grants from the Indiana Safe School Fund.
Zoeller and Miller say they began working on the legislation before the Newtown massacre, but if the bill passes it would become the state’s first formal proposal to address the topic of school safety after the incident.
Officials estimate that about one quarter or one third of Indiana schools have resource officers in place, but their duties vary. Some officers perform primarily security functions, while others assist in student discipline or counseling, but the proposed bill seeks to standardize their role in schools.
The bill lays out the specific desired duties of the officers, including assisting with implementing safety plans, reducing crime and rule violations, serving as a liaison to local law enforcement, dealing with bullying, and educating students in law-related programs as needed.
Senate Bill 270 will be considered by the 2013 Indiana General Assembly before it can become a law.