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January 10, 2013

THEIR OPINION: Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

For safer schools, there are no easy answers

It’s been four decades, and Frank Bush can’t recall another incident quite like it.

A student in a Southern Indiana high school brought a rifle one morning and fatally shot an assistant principal, evidently because he feared the man was going to turn him in to the police for marijuana possession.

It happened in the parking lot, not the building; and in any case, says Bush, “I’m not sure what would have protected that assistant principal.”

Lethal school violence is rare and hard to prevent, in Indiana as elsewhere.

Which is not to say that Bush, now executive director of the Indiana School Boards Association, would spurn the offer of $10 million in new state funds to public schools for the hiring of armed “resource officers.”

It’s just that the proposal by state Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, raises a host of troubling questions.

“This should not be a knee-jerk reaction circumstance,” Bush says. “It needs to be well-thought out, well-researched, and properly funded.”

Miller’s bill, endorsed by Attorney General Greg Zoeller, would give school corporations two-year grants for hiring and training officers. Recipients would have to solicit matching funds. Educators may not relish a short-term gift that won’t keep giving unless they find their own money or make more cuts.

There is no way armed guards can or should be placed in all of Indiana’s approximately 2,000 public school buildings, but heightened security may be useful in some. Many urban districts already employ armed police. Break-ins and fights are their usual order of business. Murderous attacks as occurred in Newtown, Conn., often prompt calls for defensive measures in schools, but they tend to defy preventive measures.

Improving safety in schools -- as well as other gathering places -- is a complex task that touches on many aspects of the Legislature’s work, including gun regulation and mental health. Miller’s bill is a natural reaction, but nothing close to a full answer.

— The Indianapolis Star

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