LEO, Ind. (21Alive) -- The State of Indiana has begun awarding grant funding for school resource officers and other school safety measures under the new grant program that Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller proposed and recommended last spring.
Joined by leaders from the local school corporation and law enforcement, Zoeller announced Friday that East Allen County Schools received a $50,000 grant for school security equipment and to employ a school resource officer or SRO.
The Secured School Safety Board on which Zoeller is a member voted October 23 to approve and fund grant applications from 116 Indiana schools to create or expand SRO programs. The board also funded 196 applications for safety equipment and 18 applications for threat assessments. Those funding options were established under Senate Enrolled Act 1, the two-year, $20 million grant program that Zoeller and State Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, had proposed in January as a funding source for school resource officers and school safety. Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, designated the bill as Senate Bill 1 to emphasize its priority. The Legislature passed the bill in April, Governor Mike Pence signed it into law and grant awards are currently being distributed.
“Schools throughout Indiana have shown strong interest in creating or expanding school resource officer programs, which underscores the findings of a needs assessment study my office conducted last November that found pent-up demand for SROs among school administrators and parents. School resource officers not only deter many of the problems in our schools but also can improve students’ respect for law enforcement. Hoosiers should thank their legislators for providing funding for the grants to meet local needs,” Zoeller said Friday during a visit to Leo Junior/Senior High School in Leo, Ind.
Locally, Fort Wayne Community Schools also received a $50,000 state grant from the program to employ a school resource officer, Zoeller noted. School resource officers are trained law enforcement officers who have been through the police academy and then receive an additional 40 hours of certification in working with students in schools.
“It is a primary goal that East Allen County Schools (EACS) provide a safe, secure, supportive, student-centered learning environment for all students and staff. On a regular basis, we review, revise, implement and practice safety procedures. Adding another school resource officer (SRO) within our district will enhance our safety measures. I am pleased the State of Indiana is helping us with this endeavor," said Jeffrey R. Studebaker, safety manager of East Allen County Schools.
Zoeller serves on the Secured School Safety Board, which over the summer developed and implemented a grant application process. Schools had to submit their grant applications by a September 30 deadline and the board screened the proposals and funded those best matching the criteria. The board heard 128 grant requests specifically for SROs and funded 116, including East Allen County Schools’ and Fort Wayne Community Schools’ requests.
In the first round of grant funding, schools with enrollments of fewer than 1,000 students could apply for grants of up to $35,000 to create or expand school resource officer positions; schools with enrollments of 1,000 students or more could apply for grants of up to $50,000. Schools can apply again in subsequent rounds included under the total $20 million appropriation over two fiscal years.
Senate Enrolled Act 1 which Zoeller advocated and Miller introduced also legally defined school resource officers and established requirements for their training. The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) is a certified program and has taken the lead on training SROs in Indiana. Over the summer, Zoeller visited several communities around the state and encouraged school corporations to apply for the grants to create new SRO positions or expand existing SRO programs.
The needs assessment study the Attorney General’s Office conducted in November 2012 prior to the Newtown Connecticut school shooting tragedy found that school administrators and law enforcement officers around the state would be interested in creating or expanding school resource officer programs, if additional funding were available. Zoeller and Miller cited that needs assessment study January 3 in proposing Senate Bill 1. The legislation Miller introduced later passed by large margins in the Legislature and was signed into law by the governor.
“Public safety is the number one duty of government, and we are grateful to school officials and school resource officers around the state who helped make the case for SRO funding. We also appreciate the efforts of Senator Pete Miller, Senate President David Long, the Indiana General Assembly, Governor Mike Pence and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security in bringing this idea to fruition so parents and schools will have enhanced options for protecting schoolchildren,” Zoeller said.
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