Thousands in safety grants coming to local schools

·3 min read

Sep. 19—The Indiana Department of Homeland Security is providing more than $100,000 for local school security. The money is part of $22.9 million distributed to schools throughout the state.

In Daviess County $33,385.15 was awarded to Barr-Reeve, $30,000 to North Daviess, $18,709 to Washington Catholic and $25,000 to Washington Community Schools.

"It's a matching grant, based on our ADM. I am happy to hear that. We utilize those dollars to pay a portion of the salary for the school resource officer. We have a memorandum of understanding with the sheriff's department to employ one of their deputies on our site for the 180 days in school," said Barr-Reeve Superintendent Dr. Travis Madison. "We pay $3,000 per month for 10 months, so that doesn't fully pay that officer's salary for the year. It's a good cooperative project between the county and the school."

Washington Community Schools and Washington Catholic have agreements with the city of Washington for officers, while Barr-Reeve and North Daviess work with the Daviess County Sheriff's Department.

"I wish they would release more money so that we could get more of our guys into the schools. It makes a big difference and we have always had good officers in there that interact with the kids in a positive way," said Daviess County Sheriff Gary Allison. "We won't really see the long-term pay off for years to come. I think we will see a lot more positive things from just having the officers in the schools working with the kids."

In the past, schools could use the funding for hardware type security measures, including doors and metal detectors. While that same option is still there most of the emphasis is on getting the officers in the school.

"We feel like it is money well spent. The grants are a big help," said Madison. "It's a different world. We want the officer to be seen as a resource and not a threat. Now, anyone coming from the outside to harm someone at our school would view him as a threat, but inside it is different. He doesn't do school discipline. He doesn't search lockers. He is part of our school safety resource team. We want our kids to recognize the different things these people have to offer. They are the good guys."

"Security is at the top of the list," said Allison. "Interacting with kids from kindergarten to senior year is something else important with this. I don't think we have quite reached that point yet, but I will be interested to see what kind of impact that has."

Madison points out that some school systems, like Barr-Reeve have tried to also use the funding to make more counselors available to students.

"We also use it to help cover the cost of our school social worker," he said. "It is a similar partnership to what we have with the sheriff's office with Youth First to employ a social worker at the school to be there every day as an additional counseling aid for our students. Youth First pays a portion and we pay half of the salary."

Beyond Daviess County there is almost $800,000 in grants in neighboring counties. That includes $20,666 for Loogootee Community Schools, $88,261 for Pike County Schools and $31,200 for Shoals.

Officials say the funding is a result of shootings that seemed to begin around Columbine and have continued over the years.

"After Columbine, things changed, we had video of that day and it was being sent into homes real-time," said Madison. "That was when the things began to change. We started putting plans together. It changed the way schools and police dealt with shootings."

Since the program began in 2013 the state of Indiana has put $132 million into the school security.