Local schools again will receive state funding in 2016 to maintain a police presence within school buildings.
Seymour Community School Corp. will receive $50,000, while Brownstown Central Community School Corp. was awarded $30,150. Both districts plan to use the funds, which much be matched by the corporations, to pay for school resource officers. The amounts are the same the districts received last year.
The amount each district can apply for through the Secured School Safety Grant program depends on student enrollment. School corporations and charter schools with at least 1,000 students are eligible for up to $50,000, while smaller districts can apply for up to $35,000.
In all, more than $10 million was allocated by the state to 260 schools or school districts. This is the third time Secured School Safety grants have been awarded.
Grant money also can be used to purchase security equipment such as surveillance cameras or to conduct a threat assessment to determine if there are weaknesses in emergency plans.
Jennings County Schools received $25,000 in grant funding to purchase equipment to restrict access to school buildings and expedite the notification of first responders. The North-Vernon based school corporation also will get an additional $3,000 to help pay expenses for school resource officers.
The grant program was built into the state budget in 2013 in response to discussions on school safety after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012. During that incident, a gunman shot and killed 20 children and six teachers and staff members.
In 2013, Seymour Community Schools was awarded $50,000; Brownstown Central Community Schools received $49,400, at which time they created a school resource officer position and secured entrances at all three buildings, and Crothersville Community Schools got $17,800, which was used to purchase an electronic access system that requires visitors to be let into the school building by someone in the main office.
Talmadge Reasoner, assistant principal at Seymour High School, said having uniformed police officers in the buildings helps the schools in more ways than just keeping students safe.
“They are important in terms of being able to handle other issues in a district our size,” he said. “They handle a lot of different things, not just threats, but also thefts, family disputes, drug enforcement, anything that would require law enforcement.”
He said the program is “very beneficial,” in both reacting to situations and preventing them from happening.
“Being able to have a first responder on site can be a deterrent for someone thinking of causing trouble,” Reasoner said.
In the past, Seymour has used some of its grant money to purchase security cameras for school buildings, but it’s primary use now is to maintain a second school resource officer.
The district has one full-time officer that it pays as a school employee. Officer Keith Williams’ main duties are at Seymour High School, while Jack Hauer, a reserve officer from Seymour Police Department, is paid through the grant, and responds to calls at the middle school and elementary schools.
Williams and Hauer have worked together as Seymour’s school resource officers for nearly two years now, but the district has employed a police officer for around 15 years.
Reasoner added that having the officers in the buildings helps build positive relationships between law enforcement, students and parents, and improves communication between the district and the police department.
Without the Secured School Safety grant, Reasoner said the corporation would only be able to afford one resource officer.
Brownstown Superintendent Greg Walker said matching funds for their grant come from the town of Brownstown, which helps pay the salary, benefits and equipment for their full-time school resource officer, Officer Tom Wright, who is employed by the Brownstown Police Department.
“He has a great rapport with the students and staff,” Walker said of Wright. “It has been a very beneficial program. It is nice to have that police presence in our schools and on school grounds.”
Without the grant monies, the school corporation could not not afford to have a school resource officer, Walker added.
Gov. Mike Pence said the Secured School Safety Grant program is an important one that protects Hoosier children and teachers.
“The safety of our kids is our highest priority, and this grant program continues to be a valuable partnership between local schools and the state,” he said.