Firearms training ‘another option’ for schools

By LEANN BURKE
lburke@dcherald.com

INDIANAPOLIS — A bill moving through the state legislature aims to create a hand gun training program for teachers and school staff.

Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, authored the bill — labeled HB 1253 — that, if passed, would create a hand gun training program based on police training programs for school staff who wish to carry their firearms on campus.

The bill would also allow schools to use funds from the Indiana safe schools grant to cover costs related to the training. The bill passed the House 72-25, and is currently in the Senate’s Committee on Education and Career Development, though it is not currently scheduled to be heard by the committee this session.

Arming teachers has come up in national discourse as the country debates how to protect students and school staff against school shootings.

“I think the goal is to give school boards another option if they choose to do so,” said Rep. Shane Lindauer, R-Jasper.

Lindauer voted in favor of the bill. He said his initial concern was that the bill would add another mandate for schools, but it does not. Instead, the bill would provide another tool for school boards to use if they choose to do so.

Rep. Steve Bartels, R-Eckerty, also voted for the legislation.

Indiana school boards have had the option of allowing staff to carry firearms for several years. A 2012 law that made schools gun-free zones exempted school staff approved by their school boards “to act as a security guard, perform or participate in a school function or participate in any other activity authorized by a school.”

Although arming staff members is an option, local schools have not done it.

“I feel like the only way that would be safe for our students is if staff members were a police officer and had the same amount of training,” said Bill Hochgesang, superintendent at Northeast Dubois Schools.

In January, Deputy Tim Lampert with the Dubois County Sheriff’s Department joined the school staff as a school resource officer.

Other area superintendents echoed Hochgesang’s comment. Southeast Dubois Superintendent Rick Allen said the only way his school district would allow staff to carry firearms was if they went through police academy training, and Greater Jasper’s policy is that only school resource officers carry firearms. North Spencer Schools have a similar policy.

Southwest Schools did not return calls for comment.

Although local schools currently don’t allow staff to carry firearms, some superintendents said they wouldn’t rule it out. Greater Jasper superintendent Tracy Lorey said that with the proximity of Jasper’s schools to police stations and the corporation’s school resource officer, officials haven’t felt a need to arm staff.

“I think if we were in a rural area ... we might think different about it,” Lorey said.

North Spencer Superintendent Dan Scherry said the corporation is always looking at best practices for keeping its students and staff safe, but at this point, he doesn’t think a blanket policy allowing staff to carry firearms is the best option.

“This would be one that I think North Spencer may want to sit tight on and see how it develops,” Scherry said. “But I could always have my mind changed.”




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