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NACS open to police in its schools

Money biggest sticking point

– If money becomes available, Northwest Allen County Schools would consider having police officers in schools.

Superintendent Chris Himsel said that’s why he met with Allen County Sheriff Ken Fries on Wednesday.

“We are very comfortable with the relationship we have with the sheriff, and we would look to continuing that relationship,” Himsel said.

For now, the district has one officer from the sheriff’s department stationed at Carroll High School. This school resource officer is available to all the district’s schools, if needed, Himsel said.

But a bill has been proposed in the Indiana Senate that would use money from the Indiana Safe Schools Fund to help public and charter schools create or expand school resource officer programs.

Himsel said he initiated the meeting with Fries to review the current program and discuss an expansion in the event that this new state funding became available.

“I give them a lot of credit,” Fries said of the district wanting to discuss school safety. “We have a need to look at the possibilities. We can always do more.”

School safety has been a topic of national attention since last month’s shooting deaths of 20 schoolchildren and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Some have called for a police officer in every school while others have proposed training and arming teachers with guns.

Noble County Sheriff Doug Harp has proposed a plan for a few teachers in each school in the county to undergo firearms training and be appointed special deputies, with authority limited to school buildings.

Himsel said arming teachers is not an option for Northwest Allen because teachers are trained first to teach. The amount of initial and ongoing training required to make law enforcement decisions would conflict with the ongoing training and responsibilities of district teachers, he said.

“I’m not going to take responsibility of someone not trained in law enforcement making a law enforcement decision,” he said.

Himsel said both the district and Fries are moving forward with the same goals in mind, but without funding from outside the district an expansion of the school resource officer program is not an option.

“The educational issues come first,” Himsel said. “We did discuss maximizing what we have now.”

Fries said the sheriff’s department also couldn’t move forward with an expansion without a funding commitment from the district.

“We don’t have the additional manpower or resources to supply another officer and another car,” he said.

sarah.janssen@jg.net

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