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Shelby Eastern school district to arm staff with guns in new public safety plan

SHELBYVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Staff in a rural Shelby County school district will soon have access to guns inside their facilities.

Shelby Eastern school district plans on training and providing firearms to staff members who volunteer to be a part of its new safety plan’s response team.

Shelby Eastern is home to four schools: two elementaries and two junior-senior high schools in Waldron and Morristown. Shelby County is directly southeast of Indianapolis.

The safety plan for them started before the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 students and two teachers.

Shelby Eastern’s idea was first drafted in 2018.

Superintendent Todd Hitchcock said the schools overall safety plan includes “hardening their buildings,” which mean making accessibility harder. The district’s schools already have security camera systems that check guests outside the doors before front-desk staff grant entry.

Teachers will have badges with buttons attached to them that would indicate an emergency if pushed.

Hitchcock said an anonymous tip app can be accessed via the school’s app for download. Any information submitted will go straight to the designated student resource officer, which is what schools call their police officers.

They’re still keeping one student resource officer in each school building to work alongside volunteer firearm-trained staff.

The superintendent said, “When you see a school shooting or see about a school shooting or you see gun violence on the news or another source you always wonder if you’re doing everything possible to ensure the safety of students and staff.”

The school board says its plan incorporated funding to add:

  • Additionally trained student resource officers.
  • Further investment in technology allowing staff to communicate threats effectively and efficiently.
  • Further hardening of external points of entry.
  • Anonymous reporting capability from students and parents.
  • Implementation of a well-trained internal armed staff response team in accordance with Indiana code.

The superintendent said, “We feel like this next step with the safety and security helps to ensure that we’re doing everything in our mind to keep our kids safe.”

People who volunteer to be firearm-trained will have access to the guns that will remain locked unless needed and will be inaccessible to students.

“We hope that we never have to implement are armed response team,” Hitchcock said.

The superintendent also says one question that’s been asked is why the safety plan doesn’t have a mental health component. Hitchcock says the district has spent the last two years adding resources for mental health support for students and staff. He said they’ve had over 2,000 counseling sessions on site through a partnership with Nexus. They’ve also trained teachers on how to respond to students who may be in crisis.

“So, we’ve taken a lot of steps over the last two years to address what we feel is a very important piece of the puzzle which is the mental health of our students and staff and we feel like this next step with the safety and security helps to ensure that we’re doing everything in our mind to keep our kids safe,” Hitchcock said.

Rebecca Hurley, the mother of an eighth-grader at Waldron Junior-Senior High School, says, with the nearest law enforcement offices being miles away, the extra protection is a good thing. “I also think that it’s really sad that this is the world that we live in today. This is what we’ve come to. That we are worried about our worst case scenario.”

The mother added, “You know, I mean that’s something that no parent ever wants to think about when they send their kid to school, but the truth is our kids spend more time at school than they do at home most of the time.”

The Shelby Eastern School Board shared a statement with News 8.

As a school board, our most important task is to ensure we provide a safe learning environment for students and staff. As threats against schools and the safety of our children continue to evolve, our approach to keeping students safe must also evolve. In response to this ever-changing landscape, our board has invested a significant effort in examining our existing response capabilities with the guidance and advice of several qualified experts in school security.”