News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

November 20, 2013

Money for safety: Attorney general visits Terre Haute to announce grant for school protection

TERRE HAUTE — The Vigo County School Corp. has received $50,000 through a new state grant program intended to help make schools more safe and secure.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller visited Terre Haute on Tuesday to announce the grant and to again praise the district’s efforts — in cooperation with the city and county — to have school protection officers for each school.

“You all didn’t wait for the grant application. You recognized safety in our schools was the highest priority,” Zoeller said during a news conference at the VCSC administration building. He was joined by leaders from the school corporation, city and law enforcement.

Superintendent Dan Tanoos said the $50,000 will be used for more in-depth safety training for three of the school protection officers, who will then carry the title of “school resource officers.” Funds will help pay for their salaries and training.

A small portion will help offset other costs, Tanoos said.

The Secured School Safety Grant Program  provides matching grants to schools to        employ a school resource officer; conduct a threat assessment; or purchase equipment to restrict access to the school or expedite the notification of first responders.

The state recently announced more than $9 million in grant funding to local schools and districts through the program. Zoeller  proposed and recommended the grant program to the Legislature last spring.

The Legislature approved a two-year, $20 million grant program.

The Secured School Safety Board voted Oct. 23 to fund grant applications from 116 Indiana schools to create or expand SRO programs. The board also funded 196 applications for safety equipment and 18 applications for threat assessments. Zoeller is a member of the board.

 But even before the state grant became available, Vigo County schools — in cooperation with the Terre Haute City Police Department and Vigo County Sheriff’s Department — agreed to place, and fund, armed protection officers in all schools that didn’t already have one.

The school district, city and county each contribute part of the costs. The school district’s share is more than $300,000, about half of the total cost, Tanoos said.

Zoeller said he uses Vigo County’s cooperative efforts as a model for other school districts. “My hat’s off, and I’ll continue to use you all as a model of what the other 91 counties can hope to do,” he said.

Mayor Duke Bennett said that despite the city’s financial challenges with property tax caps, it was clear that school safety had to be a top priority.

“Here, we all get along really well … and make things happen,” Bennett said. The school protection officer program is costing the city about $150,000 per year. “It was difficult to do, but we did it.”

Also attending the news conference were Clark Cottom, Vigo County Sheriff’s Department chief deputy; John Plasse, Terre Haute police chief; and Paul Lockhart, VCSC school board president.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at 812-231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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