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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, March 06, 2018 1:00 am

General Assembly

Bill tweaked to strengthen school safety

Bolsters reviews, fire alarm policy

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Lawmakers on Tuesday approved multiple school safety reviews and a modification to state fire alarm policy for schools.

The provisions were added to legislation after the February school shooting killing 17 in Florida. Senate Bill 303 passed unanimously and moves back to the Senate for final approval.

Current law says if a fire alarm goes off in a school, students must be immediately evacuated. The change allows up to a three-minute delay for a school official to investigate the alarm. During that time, the school may barricade or block a door.

The delay can be extended if an active shooter has been verified to be on the school's property.

The bill also requires the existing secured school safety board to conduct a review and submit a report to the legislative council before Dec. 1. The report must provide an overview of the current status of school safety across the state and may make recommendations to improve safety of students in elementary and secondary schools.

The Indiana Department of Education also must conduct an audit by August 2019 of every corporation's school safety plan and provide an on-site safety review and recommendations for each corporation.

Rep. Bob Behning, R-Indianapolis, said the changes are needed to make sure Indiana students are as safe as they can be.

'Dreamers' bill moves forward

The Indiana House voted 88-8 Monday to allow some “Dreamers” to receive professional licenses.

Senate Bill 419 now moves back to that chamber for final approval.

Those protected under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals are young adults who entered the country as minors and had entered or remained in the country illegally. A 2012 federal policy allows Dreamers to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.

But a 2011 Indiana law that was passed before DACA says Indiana can't grant professional licenses to anyone who isn't a citizen or qualified alien.

The Indiana Professional Licensing Agency late last year added new questions about citizenship status to all of its license applications, allowing it to screen out DACA recipients.

The new practice effectively locks out Indiana's roughly 9,000 DACA recipients from more than 70 professional licenses in Indiana, such as cosmetology, nursing and architecture. Nearly 1 in 7 Indiana workers are licensed by the agency.

The amendment to Senate Bill 419 simply carves out a third exception for individuals otherwise authorized by the federal government to reside and work in the United States.

Rep. Ed. Clere, R-New Albany, said Indiana has a nursing shortage and the change is blocking students ready to graduate with jobs from getting a license.

Other licensed include cosmetologists, plumbers and accountants.

FWCS bill goes to governor's desk

The House unanimously supported legislation Monday eliminating Fort Wayne Community Schools' racial balance fund.

Senate Bill 43 now goes to the governor for his signature.

Currently budgeted for about $7 million, the fund supports magnet schools, instructional coaches, the Family and Community Engagement Center and resources for all schools. The fund was established in 1989 as part of a court settlement to help maintain racial balance throughout the district.

FWCS officials said those aims won't disappear. But they sought the racial balance fund's elimination because changes approved last year will consolidate multiple district funds beginning in 2019.

Last year's changes did not address the racial balance fund, which has been supported by money diverted from the capital projects fund. Maintaining the separate racial balance fund could lead to problems later.

nkelly@jg.net