Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb wants to improve student safety by boosting funding for security improvements and school resource officers.
That’s according to a report released Friday. It contains recommendations made by a special working group that he convened.
The Republican also says he wants every school in the state to conduct active shooter drills and wants to expand students’ access to mental health services.
The working group conducted a survey of schools officials, teachers, first responders and security experts to help develop the recommendations.
Republican legislative leaders have said boosting school safety will be a top priority during the next legislative session.
State finance officials say they are working on finding a way to pay for it.
The following is the release issued by Governor Holcomb’s office on Friday
Gov. Eric J. Holcomb today released the report detailing the school safety recommendations compiled by a working group formed by Indiana Department of Homeland Security Director Bryan Langley, in conjunction with David Woodward, the Indiana Department of Education’s Director of School Building Physical Security and Safety.
Gov. Holcomb directed several next steps regarding the 18 recommendations in the report:
- The Indiana State Budget Agency will direct an effort to identify costs associated with the recommendations and how they might be funded, whether through existing programs or other local, state or federal sources. The governor will use the information as he determines his 2019 legislative and administrative priorities
- The Department of Homeland Security will initiate efforts to create an Indiana School Safety Hub to put state resources in one easy to use online location for schools and parents (recommendation #7)
- The Integrated Public Safety Commission will develop a self-evaluation tool to maximize the effectiveness of each school’s communications systems and activities (recommendation #8)
- The Indiana State Police will set up and develop an anonymous tip line (recommendation #10)
- The state fire marshal has already developed guidance for schools on unplanned fire alarms and the Indiana Department of Education is assisting with distribution to all schools (recommendation #11). A link to the guidance may be found at: https://www.in.gov/dhs/unplannedfirealarms.htm
“Ensuring every one of our students has a safe place to learn and grow is of the utmost importance,” Gov. Holcomb said. “This assessment is an important step toward helping our schools be better prepared for the unknown.”
The recommendations are organized into three categories in the report:
- Enhanced mental health services
- Safety equipment, technology, tools and training
- Policy or legislative considerations regarding school safety
A team of state leaders and subject matter experts from across the state conducted in-person and phone interviews, online surveys, and community forums to gather feedback. More than 400 responses were collected from school administrators, educators, first responders, public safety officials and others. And while the group learned that the needs of school districts can vary widely, the three categories of recommendations became clear once feedback was reviewed.
“To remain a national leader in school safety, Indiana must address gaps in areas that go beyond hardening our buildings and training to respond to incidents,” the group said in its report, saying that more access to mental health services and better information sharing emerged as consistent themes.
Among other recommendations the report cites are:
- Enhancing and expanding mental health services
- Increasing funding flexibility for local law enforcement presence in schools
- Identifying and implementing a universal mental health screening tool for schools to use
- Requiring active shooter drills in every school
- Creating funding flexibility for school safety grants
Last month, the governor announced the state would make handheld metal detectors available at no cost to traditional public, charter and private schools that request them. The 3,231 metal detectors requested by 369 school entities in this first round are expected to arrive at schools later this month. Schools that are interested, but did not place an order, will have another opportunity to do so later this fall.
Among actions signed into law by Gov. Holcomb in 2018:
- Made $35 million in low-interest loans available to schools to increase school safety through the Indiana Common School Fund. Applications may be found on the Indiana Department of Homeland Security website at www.in.gov/dhs/securedschoolsafety/commonschoolfund.htm
- Provided an additional $5 million to support school safety grants recently approved through IDHS
- Dedicated $1 million to support a full audit of school safety plans around the state
In June, Indiana Department of Homeland Security received 390 applications from school corporations for school safety grants. Because of the additional $5 million allocated by the General Assembly during this legislative session, all schools that met grant requirements were approved and will be funded. Those funds, more than $14 million in total, will be put to use for school resource officers, safety equipment and threat assessments. Learn more about the grants at http://www.in.gov/dhs/securedschoolsafety.htm.