(INDIANAPOLIS) — A bill that would authorize school employees to carry a weapon in a school building was approved by a legislative committee Tuesday.
The bill, which was approved by the House Ways and Means Committee, would require either an employee or outside volunteer to work as a designated “school protection officer.” The bill requires 40 hours of training by the protection officer.
The protection officer can also be confidential to protect their identity, the Icommittee decided.
A new provision to the bill would allow schools to file an annual waiver from the requirement of having a protection officer.
The original bill would have provided grants to help train resource officers, often a police officer hired by the school corporation. Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, offered the mandate on a protection officer. He explained it offered more protection and training to those who are willing to help defend the students of the community.
“We can’t just have our heads in the sand on this,” Lucas said. “Right now there are so many schools in the state that have no protection.”
Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond and a former Hammond police officer, said the bill confuses the necessity of having a school resource officer, who works within the school environment and serves many different facets. Instead, the bill mislabels a civilian as an “officer” which do not have the same level of training as police.
“I understand what the problems are,” Lawson said, “but if you think for one minute that a protection officer is going to do anything, you’re dead wrong.”
State Attorney General Greg Zoeller stated that his office still supports the original intent of the bill, boosting the presence of trained officers, but the recent changes may be off track.
“I’m concerned that Senate Bill 1 is losing its focus on providing a law enforcement presence in our schools,” Zoeller said. “All of the work this past year highlights the value of school resource officers developing the relationship between students and law enforcement in preventing many of the dangers of drugs and weapons in schools. Hopefully the importance of developing a stronger school resource officer program in Indiana will continue to be the focus of the final bill, and I strongly recommend the original version of Senate Bill 1.”
The bill passed with a 16-7 vote, and will head to the House floor.
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