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Bill wrestles with role of school resource officers

Updated: May 25, 2013 6:34AM



INDIANAPOLIS — Legislation that would provide up to $20 million to help schools pay for school resource officers is nearing a final vote, according to lawmakers Tuesday.

Senate Bill 1 will provide matching fund grants to schools to help cover the cost of hiring a resource officer.

The bill, which at one point would have required an employee of the school to be armed, now focuses only on hiring and training officers to work within a school environment.

Schools with at least 1,000 students can apply for up to $50,000 a year, and smaller schools can either join with other schools and apply for $50,000 a year or apply on their own and receive $35,000 a year.

To qualify, a school corporation would have to establish a safety plan to the Secure School Safety Board.

But concerns about giving too many responsibilities to resource officers were raised by Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, a former law officer.

In the bill, the resource officer would be required to protect the school from outside threats, unauthorized access, and secure the school against violence and natural disasters.

“This is not my vision of a school resource officer. What you’re asking is way too much responsibility,” Lawson said. “But there’s a lot we can do with this.”

Lawson said school resource officers need to be more than security guards. They should be considered a part of the learning process and a service to the students.

At the same time, they shouldn’t always behave like the average police officer. Instead of making arrests, Lawson said, properly trained resource officers try to de-escalate situations.

“She hit the nail on the head,” said Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, who authored the bill. “We had a [school resource officer] bill, then Connecticut happened, and now we’re also trying to deal with school security within the bill. We’re trying to kind of accomplish two purposes here. Yes, we want them to be heavy against external threats, but inside the building they’ll serve a different role.”

Miller said slight changes to help strike a balance between security officer and resource officer may be placed in the bill.



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