News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Opinion

May 6, 2013

FLASHPOINT: Indiana lawmakers reinforced school safety mechanisms

TERRE HAUTE — Nothing is more important to me than the safety of my children. Every parent has felt that instant, apprehensive rush when their child plays too close to the street or falls down while playing soccer and it is our responsibility as parents to implement every safety mechanism we can muster to protect our kids.

However, parents cannot be everywhere all of the time, and when our children embark to conquer the world, boarding that bright, yellow bus, they are taking steps they need to learn the skills to become successful in life. While I cannot attend school with them, I would feel more comfortable as a parent, in lieu of recent tragedies, knowing that our school systems are taking every precautionary measure to safeguard our children.

One direction that Indiana is taking to address this issue is through Senate Bill 1. The bill, which passed out of the House and Senate, establishes a State School Safety Board which would require safety experts to study to make recommendations to the General Assembly on what methods Indiana can take to better protect our students. Those discoveries would be submitted in a report and must be presented to state lawmakers by Dec. 1, 2013.

Another aspect of the bill establishes that the Indiana Secured School Fund, under the Department of Homeland Security, would provide a matching grant, up to $50,000 per school system, to use for the following: employ school resource officers, conduct threat assessments of school buildings or purchase safety equipment and technology.

I was pleased with what SB 1 aimed to accomplish which is to improve school safety. Nonetheless, one portion of the bill I was not in agreement with stated that only school corporations with at least 1,000 students were eligible to receive this grant. With a quarter of the state’s school systems smaller than 1,000 students, this left out many schools — especially those located in our district.

To address this, I offered an amendment to the bill, that was later adopted, which allowed school corporations, less than 1,000 students, to take advantage of the matching grant program. The amendment stated that those smaller school systems would be eligible to receive a grant up to $35,000. Additionally defined in my amendment and to increase flexibility, two smaller school corporations, that share a resource officer, can join together to receive the $50,000 grant.

The new version of this bill ensures that Indiana is taking the necessary steps, looking into what further safety measures can be taken to provide our Hoosier school corporations, even the smaller ones, the tools they need to better safeguard those so precious to us, our students. If there is one thing I have learned as a parent, though, is that there is no way to ensure the complete safety of our children, but we still take every precaution in order to do so. I believe this bill is a step toward ensuring that same principle takes place in our schools.

Rep. Alan Morrison, a Republican, represents all of Vermillion County and portions of Clay, Fountain, Parke, Vigo and Warren counties.

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