Improving school safety

By: 
State Sen. Erin Houchin (R-Salem)

As a parent and a lawmaker, keeping children safe is extremely important to me, especially when they are in school. Indiana has been a national leader in school-safety measures in recent years, and we continue to look for ways to enhance the safety of our schools. This year, lawmakers, the governor, and state agencies have made this a priority.

House Enrolled Act 1230, which I supported earlier this year, increases funding for the Secured School Safety Grant Program (SSSG). The SSSG program was established in 2013 and allows school corporations, charter schools and private schools to receive yearly grants from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS). These grant funds can be used for purposes such as hiring school resource officers, purchasing safety equipment, and conducting school threat assessments. HEA 1230 allowed for an additional $5 million to ensure all grant requests were funded this year. In total, more than $14 million in SSSGs has recently been awarded to schools across the state.

Gov. Holcomb also recently announced that schools could request to be provided with handheld metal detectors free of charge if they so chose. During the first round of orders, more than 350 schools took advantage of this offer.

In addition, based on a recent report from the IDHS, Gov. Holcomb has directed several state agencies to take further steps to improve the safety of our schools. For example, the Indiana State Police will develop an anonymous tip line, the IDHS will create an Indiana School Safety Hub for parents and schools to access state resources, and the Indiana State Budget Agency will identify costs related to all recommendations and research the best ways to fund them.

The full report includes recommendations such as expanding mental health services, requiring active shooter drills in all schools, and increasing funding abilities for law enforcement presence in schools. Of the 18 total recommendations made by IDHS, seven would require legislative action by the General Assembly. I look forward to discussing this report with my colleagues during the 2019 session as we continue our efforts to keep Hoosier children safe. To view the full IDHS report, visit in.gov/DHS.

As the mother of three school-aged children, I know that keeping violence out of our schools is one of the most important issues we face today. Although we have made improvements, our work is not done. In the coming months, I look forward to continuing our work to ensure the safety and security of each child in the learning environment.

If you have any thoughts or questions regarding these or other issues, please contact me by email at Senator.Houchin@iga.in.gov or by phone at 800-382-9467.

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