VALPARAISO | Porter County Commissioner President John Evans threw his support Tuesday behind a request to fund an effort to enhance school safety in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.
But Valparaiso Police Chief Mike Brickner, who is part of the countywide Safe School Committee, reminded the commissioners of the city's own brush with a school tragedy.
Valparaiso High School freshman James Lewerke attacked classmates on the morning of Nov. 24, 2004, with a machete and tree saw. Before school administrators tackled the 15-year-old in the hallway, he had left seven students wounded and the community shaken.
"It's a 'when' issue," Brickner said. "We never thought it would happen here."
Evans lauded the efforts of the Safe School Committee and said the commissioners would be willing to fund the group's work through the end of this year using proceeds from the local income tax.
He offered to join group leaders in approaching the county council for a more long-term funding solution, including a request to create a new position.
Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper said she preferred to handle the needs on a contractual basis.
Brickner said the ongoing effort, which already has close to 100 members, includes assisting schools in better understanding, creating and carrying out safety and hazard plans.
He also spoke about the need for securing necessary equipment and creating a secured website with details about school buildings.
There are more than 30,000 students in schools across Porter County, Brickner said.