ST. JOHN — Teachers have enough responsibility keeping students safe while teaching them the three R's and shouldn't be expected to whip out a weapon and take on an armed assailant in the building.
That seemed to be the message Monday as the Lake Central School Board voted unanimously to oppose any state legislation meant to give teachers the power to keep a firearm in the classroom and receive training in how to use it in so-called "active shooter" situations.
Superintendent Larry Veracco said two bills currently under consideration by the Indiana House would provide funding for such training and allow teachers and other school employees to carry firearms in the buildings and on school property.
The bills are apparently the Legislature's response to the continuing tragedy of school shootings.
Veracco said he was surprised the Indiana School Board Association supported the bills but said it might be because some rural districts don't have the funds to hire trained police officers to be in the school during the school day. Lake Central currently has two student resource officers and expects to have four later this year.
"It's really difficult for someone to be in the classroom teaching students one moment and then have to switch gears and grab a gun and have to go out and face an armed person," he said.
"If they want more safety in the schools, they could put more money into the student resource officer programs and other safety measures. A lot of educators don't want any part of this."
Veracco said the legislation would make it optional for schools to arm and train employees, but some schools Lake Central students visit for sporting events might adopt the policy, and there would be no way for Lake Central to be aware of it.
The resolution states Lake Central's opposition to the current bills and any similar one proposed in the future.
"I trust the police we hire. They have the training, and some of it is pretty intensive," board member Howard Marshall said.
"I'm a teacher, and I will protect my students at all costs, but I don't want to be trying to take someone out. I could hit another student instead," Board member Sandy Lessentine said.
Lessentine asked if teachers are getting training on the latest methods for dealing with intruders. Veracco said the building principals update the staff regularly on the procedures for the "I Love You Guys" program.
"We are fortunate to have an officer for every two schools and people to help with the training whose entire focus is safety and security," Veracco said.
In a related matter, the board agreed to hire Larson Danielson Construction Co. to remodel the vestibule at both Bibich and Watson elementary schools to provide better security. Facilities Director Bill Ledyard said the bid was below what had been budgeted and will allow the school to replace the ceiling tile in Watson and other tile at Bibich for $1,037,305. Three other bids were received.