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Every school district in Northwest Indiana is supposed to conduct emergency training for students and staff to prepare for an active shooter or any other emergency, according to the Indiana Department of Education.

A spokesman for the DOE said Thursday, schools are required to conduct what is called a "man-made occurrence" drill once a year that can include anything from an active-shooter to a bomb threat.

Indiana law says a school board is to require the district to conduct periodic emergency preparedness drills during the school year. The school must conduct at least one tornado drill and at least one man-made occurrence disaster drill, according to Indiana Code 20-34-3-20.

Just Thursday, Lake Central School leaders and local authorities investigated a reported threat to the high school. Lake Central Assistant Superintendent Al Gandolfi said the threat was not "credible," and school continued as usual on Friday.

In the event of a real threat, Gandolfi said Friday the school has a standard response protocol it follows.

"We do drills in all of our buildings with the police department working with us," he said. "We just did a drill last week at Clark Middle School (St. John). The high school is scheduled for a drill next week."

Gandolfi said each of the district's nine buildings has a website that contains the school's standard response protocol video. However, he said, the elementary protocol is different from the secondary response. 

"No one calls the drill an active-shooter drill. It's called a lock-down or a lock-out. If the shooter is outside of the building, it's called a lock-out. If the shooter is inside the building, it's called a lock-down. If there was a shooter barricaded in a house a mile or so away, then our response is to do a lock-out. All buildings are locked and police are on the outside perimeter," Gandolfi said.

Gandolfi said he does not know all the details that occurred in the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting, in which 17 were killed, 14 of them students, but he said he is saddened by anything like that happening in a school corporation or anywhere else.

He said school administrators are aware of any student who is suspended or expelled from school and should not be on the school campus. He said administrators are spread out on campus in the parking lot and managing traffic, along with school resource officers inside the building.

Of the roughly 9,400 students at Lake Central Schools, about 3,400 are at the high school.

Drills, practices involve similar protocols

Valparaiso schools Superintendent Ric Frataccia said the school corporation, in conjunction with Porter County Sheriff Dave Reynolds and Porter County schools, has developed emergency plans for incidents such as active-shooter training.

"In Valpo schools, active-shooter training is practiced. We also participated in tabletop exercises. We have increased our own staff of safety personnel. We have notified parents of these situations," he said.

East Porter County schools Superintendent Rod Gardin said their crisis plan includes teachers and students practicing active-shooter drills.

In a letter to parents Thursday after the Florida school shooting, Gardin said, "We never want a tragedy like the ones that have occurred across the country to happen in our schools. We do all that we can to preserve your child’s safety. Our school safety plan is reviewed each year with law enforcement. Safety drills, including active-shooter drills, are practiced with students and staff members."

Michigan City Area Schools spokeswoman Betsy Kohn said the MCAS has held active-shooter training for staff several times over the past few years.

"The most recent training was conducted earlier this school year for high school and middle school staff, and next week we will have active-shooter training for elementary teachers districtwide," Kohn said.

She said the training sessions are facilitated by the school resource officer and the Michigan City Police Department. Teachers review procedures with each of their classes, tailoring the discussion to relate specifically to their location in the building. In addition, drills are conducted annually at all schools for fire, tornado, lock-down and so on, she said.

In addition, the Indiana State Police offers to do presentations for groups of educators on active shooters, but those appear to be voluntary and only directed at teachers. The DOE also offers school safety specialist training for educators.


Education reporter

Carmen is an award-winning journalist who has worked at The Times newspaper for 20 years. Before that she also had stints at The Clarion-Ledger in Jackson, Miss., The Post-Tribune and The News Dispatch in Michigan City.