AG Zoeller: Improving school security is top state priority
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/648-3154 February 21, 2013 3:46PM
Indiana Attorney General Geg Zoeller speaks during a press conference at Lake Central High school in St. John in February. Zoeller reiterated his support for a bill that would provide state matching grants to help schools create or expand school resource
Updated: March 23, 2013 6:28AM
ST. JOHN — The Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., rocketed school safety to the top of the General Assembly’s legislative agenda, Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Tuesday at Lake Central High School.
Zoeller hailed the collaboration between Lake Central and the towns of St. John, Schererville and Dyer that is enabling Lake Central to hire a school resource officer in the 2013-14 school year. The three towns and the school district are contributing a portion of the funding of the $125,000 six-year federal Community Orienting Policing Services grant.
Last year, following a statewide needs assessment, Zoeller said he had prepared a bill calling for $10 million for additional school resource officers. That was before Sandy Hook.
“Now, it’s a top priority,” he said, adding the bill received the designation of Senate Bill 1. “It has the support of the governor and Glenda Ritz,” the state superintendent of public instruction.
The bill passed the Senate Thursday and moves on to the House of Representatives.
The amended version of the bill lists the grant program funding between $12.2 and $15.1 million, depending on how smaller school districts with less than 1,000 students combine to submit joint applications.
The bill also creates the Indiana Secured School Fund made up of appropriations by the General Assembly, grants from the Safe School Fund, federal grants and money from private or public sources.
Grants would be awarded by the Secured School Safety Board consisting of the director of the Department of Homeland Security, the attorney general and the state superintendent of public instruction or their designees, an employee of a local school district and a local police officer, both appointed by the governor.
As for the duties of the school resource officer, Zoeller said he prefers to allow local districts to have flexibility. “It’s not someone who just sits at the door, there’s a lot more to it,” Zoeller said.
Lake Central Superintendent Larry Veracco said the district lost its school resource officer in 2004 when federal funding ran out. He said the district has also taken other measures to beef up security, such as limiting visitors during the day. The district also meets regularly with representatives from three towns’ police departments and the Lake County Sheriff’s Department.