Clark-Pleasant Schools seek tax hike for school safety


WHITELAND, Ind. (WTHR) - Johnson County's second-largest school corporation wants homeowners to help pay for better school security.

Clark-Pleasant Community Schools plan to put a referendum on the ballot this fall.

This district already has surveillance equipment. They already have a no weapons policy. Now they need money to hire a dedicated police force, better monitor who can go in and out of school buildings, and get more mental health help for students.

Superintendent Dr. Patrick Spray says when classrooms became scenes of crisis in Parkland, Florida and when gun violence drew even closer at Noblesville West Middle School, his staff's ongoing conversations about school safety turned urgent.

"And most of those conversations lead to: we need to do more - more for our students, more for our staff, more for our community to try to not only try to be as preventative as proactive as possible, but what can we do in regards to response," Spray said.

For Clark-Pleasant Schools, doing more means asking more from taxpayers.

They want to put a $1.5 million referendum on the November ballot to enhance school safety. Spray says that works out to an extra $40 a year for someone who owns a $139,000 home.

"We feel like this is a priority. School safety is a priority and we want to make some improvements. This is our mechanism to be able to do it and keep it on the forefront," Spray said.

The district wants to hire its own police department of eight school resource officers, instead of relying on a few off-duty police from surrounding cities. That dedicated police force would patrol eight campuses and mentor CPCSC's 7,000 students.

"We are also looking at being able to have a K-9 unit for drugs and also for munitions," Spray explained.

Another part of the plan would earmark money for counselors, specifically for mental health.
They'd concentrate on suicide prevention, anti-bullying measures and spotting and treating emotional problems in kids before they potentially turn violent.

"Our kids have a lot of trauma in their lives at times and so being able to recognize that and also training our staff to deal with trauma with students and be able to identify that better," Spray said.

Money is also planned for technology upgrades for camera software and potentially some new hardware, including scanners or kiosks at the main entrances to school buildings. Those would ID parents and visitors with a swipe, what the superintendent calls an electronic background check.

"It's very similar to what you see at a lot of places of business. When you go to Eli Lilly, you go to the other businesses, this is the kind of technology that's in place in workplaces, not in our schools" Spray said. "Some type of electronic background check would be something we would purchase with this referendum going forward."

Clark-Pleasant's school board has a special session at 7:00 p.m. Monday. That's when they'll officially move forward with the referendum.

If it passes in the fall, Dr. Spray says safety improvements would begin in January 2019.