By Megan Powell
After violent attacks in the nation in recent years, committee members met Tuesday morning to discuss potential new safety measures for teachers and students.
Senate Bill 147
, authored by Sen. Phil Boots
, R-Crawfordsville, would require the Department of Homeland Security to establish minimum standards and best practices for a school emergency response system. The bill also allows districts to collect money to fund security improvements.
“This would allow schools to use their capitol project funds and allow them to impose a $20 student fee, which would only last for a maximum of 60 months, and a $10 fee on property tax per particle to help fund this,” said Boots.
At Tuesday’s committee hearing, Superintendent for Southwestern Consolidated School District, Dr. Paula Maurer, talked about how one of her schools took the steps to create a safer environment. Those steps included installing wooden doors, prohibiting visitors from entering the building during passing periods, and giving teachers key fobs that when used can put the entire building on lockdown. According to law enforcement, Southwestern Junior and Senior High School has been deemed the safest school in America.
“Our cameras come up and activate an alarm at the sheriff’s department,” said Maurer talking about her school’s safety. “They have a monitor there that all of our cameras come up and they can see. They can see where the fob was pressed. If there is an intruder there – see what kind of weapons platform he would have, what he would be wearing and use some counter measures to help move him throughout the building.”
Boots drafted SB 147 after hearing concerns from voters in his district and Montgomery County Sheriff Office Assistant SWAT Team Commander Mike Kersey.
“When I got into law enforcement I signed on for a risk knowing that I might not come home. My family understands it,” said Kersey. “Our teachers and our children did not sign on for that same mission. That’s an unfair burden to have, if you ask me.”
Kersey believes that students should know that they are in a safe learning environment.
“This is just a common sense throughout process to do the right thing,” said Kersey.
Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury voiced his concern over making sure SB 147 helps charter schools in addition to public schools. Committee members said they plan to meet with Boots at a later time to discuss the implications for charter schools. The bill is expected to be heard in committee again next week.