On Tuesday, the School Safety Interim Study Committee held its second and final meeting to discuss the feasibility of funding the creation of a statewide option for school resource officer programs.
In an effort to improve student safety, lawmakers approved legislation during the 2013 legislative session to provide state grants to hire and train school resource officers. Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 1, co-authored by Sen. Jim Arnold, requires that a school resource officer, often a former or active police officer, receive 40 hours of special training to work in a school environment. Officers will be charged with keeping schools secure, as well as helping to educate and counsel students on a daily basis.
In Tuesday’s meeting, committee members heard testimony from city and county officials, as well as police officers from Vigo County that have successfully implemented resource officer programs in schools around the county. The testimony credited the involvement of community stakeholders in getting programs up and running, and the overwhelming participation of students in addressing potential dangers. According to testimony, full-time school resource officers have improved student buy-in and increased communication between officials and students. For these reasons, the officers recommended school corporations be given the appropriate public resources to set up similar programs with as little financial burden on local schools as possible.
Other topics discussed included building security considerations in schools, the latest building equipment and technologies to enhance security, strategies for youth training in identifying and reacting to potential threats, as well as best practices for channeling the resources available to schools to best keep Hoosier children safe in school.
The committee will publish a final report with its official recommendations in coming weeks.