Indiana education leader asks state, federal lawmakers to act to improve school safety

Indiana’s top school official has asked state and local legislative leaders to take action to improve school safety.

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Jennifer McCormick issued a news release Thursday morning saying she is sending letters to Indiana’s General Assembly members and to the state’s U.S. representatives and senators in Washington, D.C., to ask them to take steps to ensure school students are safe.

McCormick’s letter begins by expressing sorrow for the 14 students and three staff members killed during the school shooting Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

“As Indiana’s education leader, I implore the General Assembly and our Indiana Congressional delegation to undertake efforts to address school safety,” McCormick said in her letter to elected officials. “These efforts must include passing policies which decrease risks, providing support for social and emotional programs to address mental and behavioral health, and approving budgets that increase resources.

“As part of our ongoing commitment to students, the Indiana Department of Education has offered state legislative language (for action) to require charter and nonpublic schools (Choice Scholarship) to comply with the same school safety requirements that school corporations must follow,” the letter said. “My office is ready to collaborate and participate in any discussions that address the safety and well-being of Indiana students.

“School safety is a very complex issue and requires a multifaceted approach to solutions,” McCormick added. “The actions of Hoosier leaders will reflect our level of courage and commitment to children.”

In her letter to Indiana’s state and federal legislators, McCormick also said people and students in Indiana and the nation “understandably” are involved in walkouts, sit-ins and other efforts to influence lawmakers to pass tougher gun safety laws.

“The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) will remain in communication with districts regarding student-initiated

demonstrations, school safety concerns and any related issues,” McCormick said in her letter. “Our goal is to heighten school leaders’ awareness of the climate and provide support and guidance to schools.”

Indiana understands the importance of preparedness, and her department is responsible for helping public school districts create “well-defined, locally developed safety plans which are practiced, evaluated and continuously updated,” McCormick said.

Each school district must have a trained safety specialist and participate in emergency-preparedness drills, she said.