Indiana could become the first state in the nation to require there be at least one armed employee at all 1,915 of its public schools if a bill approved by a House committee on April 2 is endorsed by legislators and signed by Gov. Mike Pence.
The proposed Indiana law, Senate Bill 1, goes beyond legislation signed last month in South Dakota which allocates state funding to provide firearms training for educators and staff who want to carry concealed weapons in the classroom. The South Dakota program is voluntary and school districts are not required to participate.
The Indiana bill, however, mandates that school districts designate one person in every public and charter school have a loaded weapon during school hours. The officers could be police officers or other non-educators, but could also be teachers or principals.
The proposal, which aligns with the National Rifle Association’s school safety recommendations, has been approved by the Indiana Senate but is opposed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz, a Democrat, and Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican.
“I always believe that decisions in our local schools are best made at the local level, and I have no objection to allowing schools across Indiana to have a better opportunity to have an armed school resource officer or an armed school protection officer,” Pence told Tom Davies of the Associated Press on April 3.
The Indiana Department of Education was already examining campus security when the Dec, 14 Newtown shootings occurred, said school safety consultant Chuck Hibbert, a former Indiana state trooper. The study had concluded that an effective and inexpensive way to enhance safety was to allow districts to designate teachers and other employees to serve in a collateral capacity as security officers and allow them to be armed.
Many states have provisions that allow school staff with concealed carry permits to possess guns in the classroom but, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, Indiana would be the only state to require school districts to maintain an armed presence while classes are in session at every school.
Bills to allow public school teachers or administrators who complete a special school resource officer course to carry concealed handguns on campus have been introduced in Oklahoma, Mississippi and Florida.
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— Bill to require guns in Indiana schools raises concerns