With the recent shooting at a Noblesville middle school fresh in our minds, central Indiana citizens are growing more and more concerned about the realities of violence and how it affects youth. When kids go to school, they should be safe. Young Hoosiers need to know that they are protected from natural and manmade disasters so that they can focus on learning.
David Woodward, director of School Building Physical Security and Safety for the Indiana Department of Education, provided a bit of background information on the topic of school safety.
According to Woodward, Indiana code mandates that each school corporation have a certified school safety specialist who must attend the state’s School Safety Specialist Academy to create safety procedures for each school in their corporation. IDOE provides five days of basic training to each of these specialists, who are also required to attend additional training for two days each year to receive updated information and learn about best practices across the state and nation.
Woodward stated that, “State Board Rules require that schools have provisions to protect the safety and well-being of staff, students and the public in case of fire, natural disaster (such as a tornado or earthquake), adverse weather conditions, nuclear contamination, exposure to chemicals and manmade occurrences (such as an active shooter, kidnapping or bomb threat). The details of each plan are not mandated by the state, as local resources and coordination are vital. Our Safety Academy provides training on best practices to address each hazard, but we urge planning with local first responders as well.”
In addition to these protocols, Woodward mentioned that IDOE has encouraged further training by partnering with the Indiana State Police to provide an “Unarmed Response to Active Shooter” course and with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute to provide grant money for schools to support school resource officers and additional safety initiatives.
Along with traditional law enforcement training, school resource officers receive special training about the specifics of working with kids in a school setting. This is especially true for those supported by grant money, according to Woodward.
“The training for any officer in the state of Indiana is the same,” said Greg Dewald, a local school resource officer. “When you’re an officer in the schools there is a lot more training. That is where INSROA and NASRO come into play. When officers all use the same training source it creates a consistency across all schools. In Indiana, officers that are in the school every day are able to work as a police officer but also as a school administrator. It allows the officers more freedom to search a locker or a student for the safety of the other students.”
Dewald said that training from the Indiana School Resource Officers Association helps new school resources officers gain the same tools as current officers, while also helping the officers learn about effective procedures from a variety of communities.
“We are a resource to our members for all matters regarding school safety,” said Mike Johnson, lieutenant of the Fishers Police Department and president of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association. “We allow members to network and share information as well as put on trainings in as many fields as possible in best practices for school safety. [There is a] wide variety of topics ranging from safe afterschool activities to response to an active shooter. We also provide training through our partnership with the National Association of School Resource Officers. We adopt the NASRO Triad in our training approach that provides for [a school resource officer] to serve as an educator, informal counselor/role model and a law enforcement officer. Finally, we share policy ideas and practices as well as model memorandums of understanding that are essential to a strong relationship between schools and police.”