TERRE HAUTE —
When staff at Lost Creek Elementary learned an angry parent might be en route Friday, they contacted Vigo County Sheriff’s Deputy Larry Hopper, who soon arrived from another school.
Hopper was at the school when the parent arrived. He met the parent at the locked front door, let him in and then escorted the individual to the school office, where the man calmly dealt with his concerns, Hopper said.
Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing and another deputy also went to the school. Ewing said parents and school patrons need to be aware that in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings, security has been heightened and there is an increased police presence at schools.
“Gone are the days when you are going to come in shaking your fist and causing a ruckus at a school … because we take any type of aggression like that seriously,” Ewing said. “Everybody needs to remember civility.”
Ewing is working on a proposal to add three full-time deputies to post in county middle and elementary schools on a permanent basis. He hopes to present it to the Vigo County Council early this year.
If funded, full-time deputies would be assigned to the Otter Creek, Honey Creek and West Vigo middle school districts, Ewing said, to provide security to those middle schools and the seven elementary schools that feed them.
But in the meantime, he’s instituted some stopgap measures.
Hopper has been temporarily assigned to provide security at Otter Creek Middle School, Lost Creek Elementary and Rio Grande Elementary, and he goes to each of the schools every day. He has been taken off evening road patrol.
“He is temporarily assigned while we work with the council to get some more manpower. I don’t have the manpower to do this forever,” Ewing said.
Also, the sheriff’s department school liaison, Sean Trevarthan, is now responsible for security at Honey Creek Middle School and the three elementary feeder schools, Dixie Bee, Riley and Hoosier Prairie.
As a liaison officer, Trevarthan’s primary job has been education, including drug, alcohol and tobacco prevention. “We’ve changed his position temporarily to security at the schools. He’s not going to be doing educational programming during the interim time,” Ewing said.
The school district already has a law enforcement officer at West Vigo High School during the school day, and that officer can respond to situations that arise at the middle school next door, Ewing said.
But in another temporary measure, when more than four deputies are working day shift road patrol, one of the deputies is assigned to provide security to West Vigo Middle School as well as Fayette and Sugar Creek Consolidated elementary schools. When staffing doesn’t allow, dayshift deputies will still do foot patrols at those schools.
Ewing said that West Terre Haute police are working with West Vigo Elementary, which is in the town limits.
In yet another measure, Ewing said he has instructed deputies to go to school parking lots to complete their reports after responding to a call.
“High visibility is what we’re after,” Ewing said.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.