By Megan Powell
INDIANAPOLIS – Schools could beef up security measures if a bill, which passed out of committee unanimously Tuesday, becomes law.
“Our schools need to be safe and we have the technology. We have the means to be able to do that, and so we must do that,” said Superintendent for Southwestern Consolidated School District, Dr. Paula Maurer. “I am excited that Homeland Security is going to partner with, hopefully, the education side as well as the sheriff association to determine best practices.”
Law enforcement determined Maurer’s Southwestern Junior and Senior High School has is the safest school in America because of the school’s high tech security features.
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.
Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, speaking on SB 147. Boots is the author of the bill. Photo by Ashley Steeb, TheStatehouseFile.com
Boots proposed two amendments after meeting with Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury. Yoder worried the original bill would not be able to pass the Appropriations Committee.
“One of the amendments was going to eliminate the task force – that costs money, obviously, so we eliminated that,” said Sen. Boots after the meeting adjourned. “The other amendment was going to use the secured safe school committee that already exists in DOE to establish these standards. So that was going to be a fiscal too and so we just couldn’t have a fiscal involved with this. We had to strip it down to this bare minimum.”
Boots said this is just the beginning of the process. Due to this not being a budget year, he said it would be difficult to institute anything that would cost the state money without going through the Appropriations Committee.
“It’s a move in the right direction,” said Boots. “It’s not everything that I wanted – obviously, but it’s the right thing to do and the right time to keep it moving.”
“At least Sen. Boots and I are in agreement that we will move something forward because this is such an important issue for our schools,” said Yoder. “Rather than have the bill die and have to wait yet another year or two for the bill to move forward, we want to get something done.”
Sen. Earline Rogers, D-Gary and Sen. Jim Merritt, R-Indianapolis teamed up with Boots to author the bill.
“I know how teachers and our educators feel about the young people who are in their charge,” said Rogers, a retired teacher for 38 years. “Since we are into an era in which we might be subject to, you know, harm bringing brought to our students – I do think there ought to be some standards that we follow and it ought a be universal throughout the state.”
Maurer said it’s now time to determine funding sources to install what the Department of Homeland Security would determine best practices for schools.
“I think that the next step needs to be ways that school districts can fund this, apart from their current funding sources because if we had the funding sources now, these would all be in our buildings, but we don’t,” Maurer said.
The bill now moves to the full Senate and could be discussed as soon as Thursday.
Megan Powell is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.