Gov. Holcomb releases school security recommendations

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INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — On Friday, Gov. Eric Holcomb sent out his detailed list of recommendations  on school security.

The report breaks down the 18 recommendations into three categories:

  • Enhanced mental health services
  • Safety equipment technology and training
  • School safety policy or legislative considerations

Among the recommendations:

  • Require active shooter drills in every school.
  • Direct Indiana’s Family and Social Services Administration to find universal mental health screening tools for students.
  • Change state law so that any officer can work in a school, even without undergoing the required 40-hour school resource officer training. 

Other recommendations the report cites include:

  • Enhancing and expanding mental health services
  • Increasing funding flexibility for local law enforcement presence in schools
  • Identifying and implementing a universal mental health screening tool for schools to use
  • Requiring active shooter drills in every school
  • Creating funding flexibility for school safety grants

“I’m encouraged to see the mental health. I think the earlier we can detect the challenges of our young kids today, and get a fix on that, which generally speaking, is in mental health, the better we’ll be and the safer our schools will be,” said State Sen. Ron Alting, a Republican from Lafayette.

Alting said he is already thinking school safety. He told News 8 he is already starting to work on his own school safety legislation.

“I am,” Alting said Friday. “And even thinking down the line of how to fund that.”

The report also recommends funding flexibility for things like school safety grants. Holcomb directed the state budget agency to figure out how much the recommendations might cost and how they might be paid for, among other things.

According to his office, Holcomb also directed:

  • The Department of Homeland Security to initiate efforts to create an Indiana School Safety Hub to put state resources in one online location for schools and parents .
  • The Integrated Public Safety Commission to develop a self-evaluation tool to maximize the effectiveness of each school’s communications systems and activities.
  • The Indiana State Police to set up and develop an anonymous tip line.
  • The state fire marshal has already developed guidance for schools on unplanned fire alarms and the Indiana Department of Education is assisting with distribution to all schools.

“Ensuring every one of our students has a safe place to learn and grow is of the utmost importance,” Gov. Holcomb said in a statement on Friday. “This assessment is an important step toward helping our schools be better prepared for the unknown.”

“I really appreciate the governor’s commitment to making our kids safe when they go to school every day,” State Rep. Ben Smaltz, a Republican from Auburn, said.

Smaltz told News 8 he’d like to see one more physical addition to school safety. 

“I’d really like to see a commitment to service dogs for law enforcement,” Smaltz explained. “I think they provide a great asset to finding drugs, to finding firearms, to finding explosives. Things that would be dangerous inside a school environment.” 

The group that put the report together said it acknowledges the report “does little to address gun safety concerns.”

The group said it felt issues and answers about buying, using and owning guns was better left up to lawmakers who have more time to research the issues.

House Democratic Leader Terry Goodin, a Democrat from Austin, released a statement on the school security report Friday:

I applaud Gov. Holcomb’s initiatives in regard to school safety. While the recommendations are not groundbreaking, they address issues that should be a matter of course to be realized within our schools. They are also initiatives that Democrats in the Indiana House and Senate have advocated for years. We welcome the governor’s strong commitment to this issue and its prioritization. We, as Democratic state representatives, stand ready to work with him and our Republican colleagues to ensure the safety of every school child in the state of Indiana.

State Sen. Roderic Bray a Republican from Martinsville, released this statement on Friday:

Though Indiana has demonstrated leadership on school safety in the past, it’s important for us to continue to look forward and identify ways to keep our schools safe, and I commend Gov. Holcomb for his leadership on this issue.”

In addition to improving physical safety, it is clear that our efforts to increase school safety need to include more mental health services and training for our students, teachers and staff. My colleagues and I will take a careful and thoughtful look at this report as we prepare for the upcoming legislative session.

House Speaker Brian Bosma released this statement:

School safety remains top of mind, and I appreciate Gov. Eric Holcomb’s focus and commitment to taking action to ensure all Hoosier students have a safe place to learn,” The Indianapolis Republican said. “I look forward to working with him and other stakeholders next session to improve upon Indiana’s already strong school safety policies.

To read the complete report for yourself, click here

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