INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - It appears as if Indiana is ahead of other states when comes to school security.
Schools insist safety is as important to them as teaching and learning. Keeping kids out of harm is also a high priority for the state department of education
As a IDOE administrator, David Woodward is responsible for overseeing, evaluating and enforcing state-mandated school security measures.
“We have a lot of training and a lot of schools are doing their best to prepare,” he said.
According to Woodward, Indiana is one of just two states requiring each district to employ a certified school safety specialist. Getting that certification requires 5 days of training and 2 additional days of instruction every year.
Public schools must annually submit their emergency preparedness plan to IDOE and conduct at least one active shooter lockdown drill in every school. The department randomly checks 60 of the state’s nearly 300 school districts for compliance. We asked Woodward if schools were complying.
“Absolutely, all our schools are complying.” Woodward said.
Every year, Indiana’s department of homeland security gives schools grants totaling $10 million. The money pays for building security systems, security cameras, identity checks for visitors, school police officers and other safety measures.
“There are a couple of things schools do that I would prefer schools keep to their vests, I’ll say,” Woodward said.
Many of America’s school shootings were committed not by outsiders but by students themselves, people expected to be in the building.
In some cases, other students knew of the potential attack ahead of time but didn’t warn anyone. Detecting and heading off threats from the inside is perhaps the most difficult challenge for schools.
“How are we developing those relationships with students, so someone feels comfortable to tell us when someone is hurting and or when someone is considering something diabolical,” Woodward said.
Although charter and private schools are exempt, Woodward said 240 of them voluntarily participate and comply with state-mandated school security measures.
Decatur Township schools have the security hardware and policies to help kids stay safe, but a big part of their security plan involves the human touch. That includes making friends with students and earning their trust.
Officer Chase Lyday is a resource officer at Decatur Central High School. We met him Thursday while he worked the cafeteria crowd.
He greets students by the name. “How you doin,” he asks. He swaps smiles with them. There are lots of man-hugs and handshakes.
Lyday is part-cop, part-social butterfly, but this is serious police work
“We call it ‘building relationships/building intelligence at the same time.’”
Lyday is one of 4 resource officers here, state-certified and trained to work in schools. Together they patrol Decatur Township’s 9 campuses. They build rapport with students.
“They tell us things before they happen so we can deal with things on a ground-level, proactively,” Lyday said. “Rather than a response to something that’s already happened.”
Security cameras, remotely-locked doors, check-in systems for visitors and other measures protect students from outsiders but not from each other.
“We’ve had students that might be going to a fight and we have headed that off proactively from kids who told us ahead of time so we could avert that crisis,” said Lyday.
Teachers and other staff are part of the overall security plan. They receive security training twice a year, recommendations every month from a safety committee and frequent reminders from principal Scott DeFreese.
“Keeping your ear to the ground, making sure you know the pulse of the kids. You are going to hear that every day,” DeFreese said. At the same time, Lyday and his fellow officers are listening for trouble and looking for ways to ways to stop it.
Putting police officers in schools is expensive. Decatur Township Schools pay one of its 4 officers with a $50,000 school safety grant it received from the state.