Indiana program to provide schools with free metal detectors

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A new state program plans to equip Indiana schools with free handheld metal detectors next month, when most of the state's school districts start the new academic year.

Gov. Eric Holcomb's office announced Monday that all traditional public, charter and accredited non-public schools that want the devices for detecting weapons will be eligible for one device for every 250 students enrolled. The Indiana State Police and Department of Administration will coordinate the program and place the first order this month.

"Controlling what comes into our school buildings is just one important part of keeping our schools safe, and our efforts to assist school corporations must be ongoing and evolving," Holcomb said. "Local officials are best positioned to determine their school safety needs and the measure that make sense for their students and communities, and … these handheld metal detectors could make a substantial difference."

The new program comes after a 13-year-old student was accused of opening fire in a Noblesville West Middle School classroom May 25, injuring one student and one teacher. Many in the shooting's aftermath wondered how someone could bring firearms into the school undetected.

Multiple Indiana school districts, including Noblesville, don't have metal detectors. The cost and logistical challenges of getting so many students through such checkpoints make them poor solutions, according to school administrators. But they said handheld devices could be used more easily or on a case-by-case basis.

Indiana has been evaluating school safety policies since February's fatal mass shooting at a school in Parkland, Florida. Lawmakers in May added $5 million to the Indiana Secured School Safety grant program, bringing the total to $15 million. More than $14 million will go to Indiana schools for school resource officers, safety equipment and threat assessment.

A school safety task force created by Holcomb is due in August to report findings on school safety in advance of the 2019 legislative session.

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