Schools debate having an armed school employee - Fox 28: South Bend, Elkhart IN News, Weather, Sports

Schools debate having an armed school employee

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It's a touchy subject. Guns in schools. Indiana could become the first state in the country to require an armed school employee.

Local schools don't like the idea of a staffer carrying a gun, but they also are concerned with the financial burden it could cause to have a trained officer in the building. While they don't know the best approach, everyone agrees safety in schools is a priority.

"That's what we need, we need to know he's going to come home everyday and I would feel safer with an armed officer," says parent John Ringhoffer.

Parents like the idea of SOMEONE at their kid's schools being armed.

"I think it's a good idea with all the violence and kids bringing guns and knives and everything in," says parent Jennifer Battles.

But they don't want just anybody carrying a gun. "It will detour the guys from coming. If there's an armed officer here then I think the evil guys will tend to not come around," says Ringhoffer.

PHM superintendent Dr. Jerry Thacker feels the same way, but he thinks that armed person needs to be a school resource officer. "They help us with building relationships with students in addition to providing a safe and secure environment."

He says not just anyone can do what they do. "They are just outstanding officers. So one is thinking of having the protection of police who is trained, that's a huge difference than handing over a gun to someone and giving them some shooting lessons."

At South Bend Schools, SRO program supervisor Eric Crittendon agrees, he says there's a big difference between an armed staffer and School Resource Officer. "Making staff armed or arming any personnel does not mean your school is safer. We want to put people who are trained under stressful situations and know how to handle the weapon under stressful situations."

Both Thacker and Crittendon say they've heard the argument that officers scare kids, but they say part of an SRO's job is to build a rapport and Jennifer Battles says it's working for her kids. "They've never had issues, I think it would probably make them feel more comfortable."

They say the biggest challenge is the financial side of things. "With appropriate funding we would welcome opportunity to provide the greatest possible security for our students," says Thacker.

House members are specifically looking at the financial burden with this proposal. Tuesday they will review two possible changes. They may give schools more legal protections in case something goes wrong and schools could have the option to opt-out of the proposed state requirement by using a waiver.

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