ST. JOHN | Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller congratulated officials from the Tri-Town communities and Lake Central School Corp. Thursday for cooperating to assign a police officer as student resource officer at Lake Central High School next school year.
“You didn’t wait for something to come out of Indianapolis or Washington,” Zoeller said during a news conference at the high school. It was attended by representatives of the police departments and town councils of Dyer, Schererville and St. John, school administrators and George Baranowski, Lake Central School Board president.
“This collaborative effort between the communities and the school district is a model for how government should work,” he said. “There were no turf battles.”
Last year, St. John Police Chief Fred Frego applied for and was granted a federal COPS grant. The $125,000 grant will pay for the first 18 months of salary for the St. John police officer selected as resource officer.
St. John, Dyer, Schererville and the Lake Central School Board will contribute additional funding for the position under an interlocal agreement.
The last time a student resource officer was assigned to Lake Central High School was from the late 1990s through June 2004. The grant that funded the position ran out then, Frego said.
“Since I became chief in 2004, it’s been my goal to have a student resource officer at Lake Central,” he said. “It will enhance the safety of all our students here.”
Zoeller also briefed officials about Senate Bill 1, a school safety bill which would provide state matching grants to help schools create or expand SRO positions. Those two-year grants would likely be for up to $50,000 with a local match necessary, he said.
Portions of the bill, that Zoeller said is on a clear path to passage, came from a needs assessment study conducted last fall by the Office of the Attorney General throughout Indiana.
“There was overwhelming support for student resource officers in schools, but funding was an obstacle,” he said.
The bill was recommended by Zoeller and authored by State Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon. Originally he asked for $10 million in grants for SROs in schools, Zoeller said.
The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. created a new focus on school safety, he said.
According to Zoeller, Senate Bill has universal support from Gov. Michael Pence, legislators and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz.