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Marion County sheriff wants better school safety, recommends solution

Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal in an interview with I-Team 8 said that though the $14.6 million budget increase approved by the Indianapolis City-County Council on Oct. 16, 2023, for the department is a step in the right direction, it won't solve the sheriff's office's low pay problem. (Photo from Video Aired on WISH)

INDIANAPOLIS (WIBC) — When you send your kids to school, you want to be sure they’re safe. School police departments are key to keeping the kids safe, and that’s why one of the top cops in Indianapolis want school police departments supported.

In a statement released Friday, Marion County Sheriff Kerry Forestal said he would like to see the Indiana General Assembly create and fund a “safe schools czar.” This would be an oversight position, perhaps appointed by the mayor of Indianapolis, which would help control and navigate situations involving violence in schools.

Forestal points to the recent situation at Indianapolis Public Schools’ George Washington Carver Montessori School 87. The school and district are being sued by a mother who claims her special needs child was being beaten and bullied by other students. The civil lawsuit seeking damages claims the teachers knew about the abuse and even encouraged it.

Forestal said IPS school police knew about the situation but did not make an arrest and failed to notify the county prosecutor’s office about the incident.

“There are a dozen independent school police agencies in Marion County that lack coordinated policies, cohesive training, or comprehensive oversight. The General Assembly allowed schools to form their own police agencies. Now, they need to come back and incorporate a level of accountability that is sorely missing,” Forestal said in Friday’s press release.

Forestal goes on to say a similar “school czar” position was recommended by the Department of Justice after the school mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

“This type of review must happen before a tragedy occurs, not after,” Forestal said.