INDIANAPOLIS — The state is making handheld metal detectors available at no cost to every Indiana public, charter and private school that requests them.
Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Monday that schools can receive one metal detector wand for every 250 students as part of a broad strategy to improve school safety, particularly following the nonfatal May 25 shooting of a student and a teacher at a suburban Indianapolis middle school.
School officials must request the devices from the Indiana Department of Administration by July 19 to receive them by mid-August.
The agency anticipates spending up to $550,000 in existing state funds to purchase the metal detectors.
How, where and when the devices will be used, and who will operate them, will be up to leaders in each school district, according to the governor's office.
"Local officials are best positioned to determine their school safety needs and the measures that make sense for their students and communities, and — for many — these handheld metal detectors could make a substantial difference," Holcomb said.
It's not clear what liability school officials might face for the use, misuse or non-use of the metal detectors.
Jennifer McCormick, the Republican state superintendent of public instruction, said her office is preparing metal detector guidance for schools following the Republican governor's "surprise" announcement of their availability.
In a video message, Holcomb also said the state has awarded $14 million in secured school safety grants to 388 schools that requested the funds, which were augmented by $5 million at the May 14 General Assembly special session so every request could be covered.
Since 2013, school districts have been able to seek safety grants worth up to $50,000 a year that must be matched by local funds.
The money can be used to hire school resource officers, conduct a threat assessment or purchase school safety equipment.
"This funding will help continue that trend to support schools as they plan and implement safety measures that protect students, educators, administrators and visitors," said Bryan Langley, executive director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.
In addition, Holcomb said the state now is accepting requests for low-interest school safety loans from the Common School Fund.
Under House Enrolled Act 1230, $35 million is available for loans to public and charter schools making building safety improvements.
"Controlling what comes into our school buildings is just one important part of keeping our schools safe, and our efforts to assist school corporations must be ongoing and evolving," Holcomb said.