All of Elkhart County’s public school districts have at least one local police officer working within their schools, but a proposed bill could require Indiana schools to have an armed employee in every building.
The Indiana House Education Committee approved Senate Bill 1 Tuesday morning, March 2. The bill calls for the state to help fund school resource officer programs, but the committee added a new amendment Tuesday that would require the creation of a “school protection officer” at every Indiana public school. That school protection officer would be an armed school employee who is on a school’s campus throughout the day.
According to the Associated Press, a school protection officer could be a police officer, teacher, principal or other staffer. Those officers would all have to meet training standards set by a new statewide school safety board.
Most local school systems employ multiple school resource officers, who are officers through local police agencies that monitor activity at schools, lead safety initiatives and are a resource for students and staff. As sworn officers, they also carry a firearm.
Doug Thorne, Elkhart Community Schools’ executive director of personnel and legal services, said that decisions to do with school safety, such as this one, “are best made at the local level, by local school boards and school administrators,” rather than at the state level.
“Elkhart Community Schools works closely with local law enforcement, and employs police officers to work in its schools,” he wrote in an email. “We will continue to work on this issue at the local level and make safety plans that we believe are in the best interests of Elkhart’s students and employees. Another mandate from the general assembly is not necessary.”
Other school administrators were not immediately available for comment.
The House Education Committee approved the bill with the amendment 9-3 Tuesday, advancing it to the Republican-dominated House for consideration, according to AP. To advance into law, the Indiana Senate would also need to approve the measure.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.