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When it comes to school safety, we’re still not getting to the root | Opinion | #schoolsaftey

Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security recently granted more than $29 million in school safety funding to 474 schools and school corporations.

Nearly a third of the grant money will go toward school resource officers and law enforcement programs. Another $8 million is designated for safety equipment and technology, while $1 million is reserved for student and parent support services.

Money will flow into Allen County’s four school districts – $100,000 each to Fort Wayne, Northwest Allen, Southwest Allen and East Allen – and a host of parochial and private schools, including Bishop Dwenger, Bishop Luers and Concordia high schools.

The school safety grant is a record- breaking investment.

“I think there’s more discussion and more interest than ever before, unfortunately, because of events around the country,” Joel Thacker, executive director of the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, said late last month in announcing the awards.

It also reminds us how we’ve changed since Sandy Hook, which is why this funding exists. The Indiana Secured School Safety Board was created after the Dec. 14, 2012, massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. A 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother first before driving to the school and murdering 26 people, mostly children between 6 and 7 years old. Lanza eventually killed himself.

Where once students crouched under desks for the existential dread of nuclear war, today American schoolchildren practice ducking and covering in case of an active shooter situation that we’ve witnessed at places such as Parkland, Florida, and Uvalde, Texas.

There have been two atomic bombs used in war. In 2023 alone, there have been 226 school shooting incidents with 166 victims, according to k12ssdb.org/data-visualizations, an open-source school shooting database. It documents when a gun is fired, brandished, or a bullet hits school property.

David Riedman, a doctoral candidate in criminal justice at the University of Central Florida, helms the database. His research shows that school shootings are getting more common, not rarer. Judging from his writings, Riedman’s focus is on getting to the root cause of these violent crimes.

“Almost all shootings by children and teens can be prevented by safe storage of firearms and accountability for adult gun owners,” he and his co-authors wrote in February for the online publication The Conversation. “When a weapon is stored separately from its ammunition, locked and unloaded, it is much more difficult for someone to quickly use it in a violent attack.”

That so much of the state grant is being spent to boost the resource officer ranks falls in line with what research tells us – that nearly all school shooters show warning signs before pulling the trigger, Riedman and his contributors wrote.

“Schools must think beyond metal detectors, security cameras and other high-tech gadgets and gizmos to invest in multidisciplinary behavioral intervention and threat assessment systems to respond to warning signs,” opined the op-ed’s writers.

Heaven knows the state legislature hasn’t helped. In a state wracked by incidents of violence using guns, the General Assembly pushed through a pointless permitless carry law in 2022 despite protests from law enforcement officials.

Earlier this year, lawmakers failed to act on a reasonable law prohibiting keeping or storing firearms in a place where a child could access them. It was introduced after TV producers aired footage of a 4-year-old child waving around a handgun outside his father’s Beech Grove apartment.

We laud the state for spending money on school safety, but common sense dictates that removing, or at least tightly controlling, access to weapons must be part of the solution. If not, we’re conceding to children that school shootings are endemic and that lockdown training and any accompanying emotional trauma is just an inevitable part of life. We can do more.

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