State senator and Indiana attorney general want $10 million for school guards

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— Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller and state Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, announced their proposal Thursday explaining the money would be for grants that would have to be evenly matched on the local level.

The two stressed that their proposal for more “school resource officers,” which more than a quarter of Indiana schools already have, isn’t a comprehensive effort to stop slayings such as last month’s in Newtown, Conn. — but said it could help.

“I think it’s particularly important that these positions be expanded in light of the shootings in Connecticut,” Zoeller said.

Though the measure they are proposing — Senate Bill 270 — gives schools broad discretion to decide who should serve as safety officers and whether they should work for the schools or for local law enforcement agencies, “I think it’s expected that they’ll be law enforcement personnel,” Zoeller said.

Gov.-elect Mike Pence has said he plans to launch a quick study of Indiana’s school safety procedures to determine whether other fixes are necessary. Zoeller and Miller said they’d talked to Pence’s team about the measure but were not asking for his endorsement.

A study commissioned by Zoeller’s office in November and December and which was completed four days before the Newtown slayings, at least one in four Indiana schools already has such safety officers in place. Teachers, parents and other officials in those schools said they feel their schools are well-equipped to handle safety concerns.

The survey provided mostly anecdotal evidence, but it found that most of those who responded considered the school resource officers effective at promoting “positive citizenship” among students and also in deterring potential threats on school grounds.

“School safety officers get drugs out of the schools, get weapons,” and more, Zoeller said.

Since the measure caps the amount each district could receive at $50,000, its impact in large urban districts could be muted. Miller, though, said that wasn’t an intentional policy decision. Rather, he said, the proposal is an initial draft and would likely see changes.

“This is not a mandate,” Miller said. “This is something we think is a good idea, and we encourage them to embrace it, but we’re not forcing it upon anyone.”

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