Indiana May Spend Millions on High Tech Protection for Students

The Indiana House of Representatives passed a bill to invest in advanced technology, active warning systems to protect students in public schools.

by Sue Loughlin, The Tribune-Star / February 7, 2019

(TNS) — The Indiana House unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that could provide a way for Indiana schools to get state-of-the-art technology to protect students during emergency situations.

House Bill 1225 passed the full House 93-0 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Schools could apply for grants from the Indiana Secured School Safety Grant Fund to install emergency alert systems (active event warning systems), but they have to provide a local match.

On Monday, State Rep. Tonya Pfaff, D-Terre Haute, introduced an amendment that would have eliminated the match component. Requiring the match prevents certain school districts from being eligible to apply for the grant, she said.

“It should include all schools, not just the ones that can afford to match a grant,” she said Monday in advocating for the amendment on the House floor. “All students deserve the opportunity to feel safe in their schools, no matter what the fiscal situation of their school district.”

Pfaff added, “We support this bill, we’re just trying to make it better.”

House Republicans voted against Pfaff’s amendment.

Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Danville, who authored the bill, opposed the amendment because of the limited dollars in the fund. “If you take away the match … what you are doing is doubling the hit on the School Safety Fund, and it’s a finite sum of money,” he said in session.

He said it would severely cut back on the number of grants awarded.

According to Pfaff, there is $14 million in the Secured School Fund, “but when our state is carrying a budget surplus of around $2 billion, why are we quibbling about requiring the match? … If we are worried about the funds running out, let’s simply provide more funds.”

In an interview, Pfaff said matches vary for district, based on population. “It’s a great bill,” she said. “My fundamental fight is for more money in education.”

She added, “I think school safety is very important, and we need to put more money into it. At the end of the day, our children’s safety depends on it.”

HB 1225 would open up funding through the Secured School Safety fund for schools to install active event warning systems, which operate on a mobile app, and when activated during an emergency, alert all on-duty and off-duty police officers in the area.

In a news release, Steuerwald said the bill “would help provide a funding option to schools with limited financial resources.… These systems cut response times for public safety officials, which is key to saving lives in active shooter situations.”

Schools and local sheriff’s departments would work together to apply for funding for rapid response systems.

Established in 2013, the Secured School Safety Grant fund supports initiatives to help schools address potential safety threats. To date, the program has provided more than $53 million in matching grants to schools districts across the state.

©2019 The Tribune-Star (Terre Haute, Ind.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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