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Senate overhauling $10M school safety proposal

January 24, 2013

Indiana Senate Republicans are in the middle of overhauling a safety measure aimed at better protecting schools after a shooting last month in Connecticut left 20 first-graders dead.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, said Thursday his team is looking at ways to improve the proposal that Attorney General Greg Zoeller and Sen. Pete Miller, R-Avon, introduced. The initial proposal called for $10 million to pay for more school resource officers in response to concerns from parents and teachers over bullying and gang violence in schools.

But Long said the measure should better account for threats outside the classroom in wake of the Dec. 14 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. Six educators were also killed in the incident.

"Across the board in Indiana we need to find some uniform standards, and help (schools) pay for it," he said. "That's going to be the big issue. How do we make this as cost effective as possible?"

He said he plans to deliver more details on the revised measure next month.

The Zoeller and Miller legislation calls for $10 million in matching grants for school corporations to each hire another resource officer. The measure would expand an existing program that places police officers in schools to provide security and often mentoring and community relations.

Zoeller and Miller said they expected lawmakers to tinker with the measure after they introduced it last month. They said although the legislation came after the Newtown shooting, it was actually drafted based on a survey of Indiana parents and teachers before the shooting.

"Attorney General Zoeller met with Senator Long this week and is pleased that the Senate has decided to focus on the important issue of school safety," Zoeller spokesman Bryan Corbin said. "We welcome the high priority status the Senate has given the bill.

"The initial proposal was just a starting point, and changes during the legislative process are always expected in order to constructively improve the effectiveness of the plan."

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