Indiana Legislature Proposes Statewide “School Shield” Program

| April 9, 2013

A bill proposed in the Indiana Legislature would require every public or charter school in the state to have at least one designated school “protection” officer on campus, with a weapon, at all times.

And if schools can’t afford a police officer, it can arm a teacher, principal or other employee. In effect, the state would be implementing its own version of the NRA School Shield program.

Last week a  National Rifle Association task force recommended that schools train teachers and other school personnel to carry guns to protect their students. The 225-page School Shield report was prepared by a 12-person task force led by former Republican congressman Asa Hutchinson.

One of the more troubling aspects of the Indiana legislation is the fact that it isn’t going to be funded by the state. Schools and local governments are expected to foot the bill.

But police officers are expensive. The average salary for a single police officer is roughly $50,000, and the Indiana proposal would require at least one in every school at all times.

An additional expense many schools would have trouble meeting at a time when they’re already laying off teachers and unable to buy books due to budget reductions and cutbacks. For that matter, many cash-strapped police departments have also been cutting officers and shifts.

Thus the requirement to arm teachers and staff. But no one wants untrained individuals with guns in schools around our children.

A fact reinforced by the following quote from the NRA’s School Shield “Best Practices” section:

“Therefore, an additional burden may be placed on a school or school district in ensuring that such an individual is highly trained to operate with a weapon in a school environment.

It is absolutely imperative that schools consult with subject matter experts, local law enforcement, and other stakeholders in ensuring that any individual carrying a weapon on school property have extensive initial and in-service training throughout their service.”

Extensive initial and in-service training throughout their service. But unlike the School Shield program, the Indiana legislation specifies no training requirements whatsoever.

The NRA task force proposed a model training program, 40-60 hours per person, which would cost about $800 to $1,000 each.

But Indiana law enforcement officials say more than 60 hours of training would be needed to prepare someone for such a responsibility. In fact, the Indiana Law Enforcement Academy devotes about 200 hours to training police officers just in the use of deadly force.

“The use of force is the most critical thing we deal with,” said Rusty Goodpaster, the academy’s executive director. “Target practice is one part but there is a whole mental decision making process.”

Police candidates go through hours and hours of simulator training just to become familiar with possible confrontations, relates Goodpaster. If a gunman bursts into a school, an officer must work through a mental checklist in the matter of seconds, then have the skill to act on it.

And those are just upfront costs. To conform to the NRA’s recommendations, continued firearm training, practice, range time, and ammunition would also be needed.

Paul Helmke, a former mayor of Fort Wayne, official with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and now a professor at Indiana University, supports putting police in schools if local districts decide that’s right for them.

However, a statewide mandate that puts guns in the hands of teachers, cafeteria workers and janitors is what he calls “a bad idea for a number of reasons.” Henke envisions all sorts of trouble — from teachers accidentally shooting bystanders in a crisis to students finding stored weapons.

In fact, just last January a gun was left in the bathroom of a Michigan charter school by an armed guard.

Helmke also pointed out that there was armed security at Columbine High School, site of a mass shooting in 1999. At Virginia Tech, terrorized in 2007, there was a police force.

“You always wish you had the scenario where the good guy had the gun and was able to take the John Wayne/James Bond kill shot and save the day,” he said. “Real life doesn’t usually happen that way.”

Update

House Ways and Means Republican Chairman Tim Brown said there’s growing consensus among Democrats and Republicans to make the move an option rather than a requirement. He said many lawmakers believe security decisions should be left to individual school districts.

  1. NRA School Shield Report Calls For More Guns In Schools
  2. Indiana’s Answer to School Shootings: Law requiring armed personnel in every school (VIDEO) (guns.com)
  3. NRA-backed group wants gun training for school staff (politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com)

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