INDIANAPOLIS – Terre Haute-area students will see more police inside their schools Monday as Indiana schools and law enforcement agencies react to the massacre of 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut elementary school.
The Vigo County Sheriff Department will resume foot patrols inside middle and elementary schools to complement law enforcement officers already in place in the western Indiana county’s three high schools, the Terre Haute Tribune-Star reported Saturday.
Foot patrols in the county’s schools began more than decade ago but had tapered off over the years, Chief Deputy Clark Cottom said. Current Sheriff Greg Ewing said “this policy will remain in effect through the remainder of his term,” which ends in 2014.
The Indiana Department of Education requires the state’s public schools to have on staff someone certified through the state’s School Safety Specialist Academy, agency spokeswoman Katie Stephens said.
“Indiana is the only state in the nation that requires each school corporation to have a trained and certified school safety specialist,” Stephens told the Merrillville Post-Tribune.
Many private and charter schools also participate, she said, but are not required to under state law.
The training program has been set since 1999, and continues to update policies. It offers different solutions for each school district and community, depending on their needs and the resources available.
The state also requires building lock-down drills each semester to help train students what to do in the event of a threat, she said.
However, Indianapolis school-safety consultant Chuck Hibbert said many Indiana schools, especially private and charter schools, don’t have the resources to implement safety measures such as security officers and auto-locking doors common in office and government buildings.
“It’s sad,” Hibbert told the Indianapolis Star. “But it is the reality.”
Frankton-Lapel Community Schools Superintendent Bobby Fields said he sent an email to all his principals Friday asking them to review the central Indiana district’s safety and security handbook.
“We make our schools as secure as we can to allow for a free learning experience, but our jobs are also to make sure our kids are safe,” Fields told the Herald-Bulletin of Anderson.
Like many Indiana school districts, the Middlebury schools in northern Indiana locks all schools’ doors. All visitors must be seen through a camera by someone in the front office before they’re allowed in.
“We don’t take anything lightly to do with the safety of our children,” Superintendent Jane Allen told The Elkhart Truth.
In Terre Haute, the Vigo County School Corp. has a policy allowing it to ban individuals, parents or guardians, from school facilities if they’re deemed disruptive or violent. Individuals who violate that ban can be arrested for trespassing, said Ray Azar, its coordinator of student services.