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Educators fire back at gun proposal

IndianAttorney General Geg Zoeller speaks during press conference Lake Central High school St. John February. Zoeller reiterated his support for

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

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Updated: May 6, 2013 6:19AM



Area educators and a national school safety expert have denounced a proposal that could lead to teachers packing lesson plans and loaded Smith and Wessons.

If Senate Bill 1 passes the General Assembly and is signed by Gov. Mike Pence, Indiana would be the first state in the nation to require armed school employees.

The amended version of the bill now is under consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee after it passed a House committee Tuesday. It requires so-called school protection officers, who could be police officers, but also could be teachers or principals.

The bill drew a sound round of derision from educators and a national school safety expert.

“Any time you have a tragedy like Sandy Hook, you see some of these crazy, off-the-wall proposals,” said Curtis Lavarello, executive director of the School Safety Advocacy Council, based in Sarasota, Fla.

Lavarello, a former law enforcement officer, is headlining the National School Board Association Conference next week in San Diego before heading to Chicago to consult with school officials.

Lavarello criticized the bill’s logic. “If we want to reduce gun violence at our schools, the solution can’t be to bring more guns to our schools.”

The amended bill filed by Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, caught educators by surprise. Lucas told the House committee teachers have told him they’d like to carry guns to school to stem a possible tragedy like the Sandy Hook massacre in which 20 children and six adults were shot and killed.

“The people who come up with those ideas need to take people to the firing range and see how many mistakes are made,” said Portage Township Superintendent Ric Frataccia, a military veteran.

“This isn’t like designating someone to be a media person. This is a weapon. Can you just imagine should a teacher, trained or untrained, fire a weapon and miss the perpetrator and hit a kid?”

Danielle Sleight, CEO of the Charter School of the Dunes in Gary, said the school already has an off-duty police officer who usually isn’t in uniform. “Should it be mandated? It opens up so many possible issues and problems,” she said.

Valparaiso Interim Superintendent Michael Berta said while schools would be expected to have an armed employee, no funding for training or salaries would come from the state.

State Superintendent of Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, opposes the measure saying such decisions should be left to local schools, not mandated by the legislature.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller originally proposed Senate Bill 1 to establish a grant-matching system to help schools hire more school resource officers, who are usually full-time law enforcement officers assigned to a school from a police department.



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