In light of school shootings across the country, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller is traveling the state encouraging school leaders to apply for a new state grant that will help fund school resource officer positions to enhance school safety.
Zoeller supports a state law approved last session by the General Assembly, Senate Enrolled Act 1, which makes available to school districts $20 million over two years in matching grant funds to schools for a variety of safety efforts.
"Each school can apply for a matching grant up to $50,000, which can be used to pay a school resource officer, buy equipment, get bullet-proof glass or hire a consultant to do a needs assessment," he said.
"Everyone recognizes the need to have security in our school buildings, and we'd like to avoid having teachers do discipline and security. Public safety is the No. 1 duty of government, and we must attend to public safety first," Zoeller said.
The attorney general, who stopped in Wheatfield and Crown Point on Tuesday, said school resource officers are trained law enforcement officers who receive an additional 40 hours of certification in working with schoolchildren.The officers develop critical and important relationships with students, he said.
Merrillville Community School Corp. Superintendent Mark Sperling said there is little question the district's most important responsibility as the 2013-14 school year begins is to have safe, secure and friendly learning environments.
"We want our parents to be confident that their child will receive an education in a surrounding that provides all of the necessary tools for learning in a safe environment," he said.
When the legislature meets during the next budget year, Zoeller hopes the grant will be made part of the school funding formula.
"We'd like schools to be able to count on this money every year," he said.
The deadline for applying for the first round of grants is Sept. 30. The applications are due to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, which also will administer the grants. Applications can be obtained at http://www.in.gov/dhs/securedschoolsafety.htm.