— The Indianapolis Star
Keep school security a local issue
The decision to provide armed security inside a schoolhouse should be made locally. The serious concerns raised by such a significant step are best aired and addressed by local school boards, administrators, parents, mental-health professionals and law enforcement officials who know the distinct characteristics of the community.
School districts serve distinct populations. Terre Haute is not Carmel. Corydon is not Gary. All communities, though, must now confront troubling choices over safety policies, tragically illuminated by the Dec. 14 massacre of 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
The Indiana Legislature wisely dropped a measure that would have required every Indiana public and charter school to arm an employee with a loaded gun while classes are in session. Lawmakers revised that bill to authorize armed employees in schools, but called on local school boards to decide each year whether to implement such a policy.
The concept stemmed from a predictable response by the National Rifle Association to the Sandy Hook shooting, proposing an armed security guard or staff member in every U.S. school. The like-minded bill with the armed-employee mandate that emerged in the Indiana House drew opposition and criticism for a smorgasbord of reasons from numerous state officials and education groups, including Gov. Mike Pence and state Senate President Pro-Tem David Long, both conservative Republicans.
Pence said, appropriately, “I have a strong bias for local control. I think decisions that are nearest and dearest to our hearts ought to be made by parents and local school officials. I believe that’s so in this case.”
Those decisions are big. The difference between arming a school worker — such as a teacher, principal, counselor — and hiring an armed school police officer is significant. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported last week that the Noble County sheriff reconsidered initial plans by his department to train volunteers from school staffs in firearms safety when confusion arose over which public entity — the county or the school district — would provide insurance coverage for those involved.