Indiana could become one of the first states to require an armed official in every public school in the state.
Indiana’s House Education Committee has amended and passed a bill—Senate Bill 1—that would require public schools to hire and train a school official to protect students with a firearm, but some lawmakers say the bill is too vague and would not benefit students.
Under the law–which includes start up funding–a gun would be in each public school, but the official handling the gun could be a teacher, custodian or School Resource Officer (SRO).
When the bill passed the Senate it didn’t include the aforementioned mandate. State Representative Jerry Torr, R-39—who introduced the bill in the House—says he’s heard from teachers who say they don’t want that responsibility.
“We want someone who’s familiar with firearms who feels secure in that position and I suspect in almost every school across the state of Indiana I suspect there will be people who will step up and be trained for that position,” he says.
Following the House’s approval, Gov. Mike Pence’s office released the following statement:
“Governor Pence believes that decisions about school safety and security should be made by local schools, with support from the state. The Governor began working on this issue as soon as he took office, and has assembled a broad group of experts who are assessing the risks that are facing our schools and exploring best practices. We want to support local efforts to make schools as safe as possible so our teachers can focus on the education of our children and our children can simply be kids.”
Despite Pence’s support for local decision making, state Representative Linda Lawson, D-1, is still concerned that the General Assembly will move forward with the House bill, which was approved 9-3, with the nays coming from Democrats.
“That scares me. That really scares me because our General Assembly is a super majority of republicans in both House and Senate and if they decide they want to do this, there is no way to stop it. So that’s my fear,” she says.
Lawson—who was a police officer for 25 years—says the bill needs to include more accountability and assessment. Further, she says more attention should be paid to training SROs in mental health.
“I think any person, a teacher, a secretary, a custodian with a hand gun is not the answer for school safety in the building,” she says.
The move follows an ongoing national debate about school safety and gun control, after a gunman shot several students and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
Of the 23 initiatives signed by President Barack Obama in January, the federal government has support schools wanting to implement SROs and many southern Indiana schools districts including Greater Clark County Schools already have SROs working in their schools.
The bill has moved to the House Ways and Means Committee.