Parents of students in Monroe County are concerned about school safety after two incidents of students bringing guns onto school grounds. In response, parents request the Monroe County school board reevaluate their decision made in May 2021 to disarm all resource officers working in the schools, according to WTHR.
A gun was found on school property at Bloomington High School South in September, only a month into the school year, according to the article. Within two weeks of the initial incident, an airsoft pistol was found causing the school to go into lockdown.
Parents Maria Douglas and Elizabeth Bullock are attempting to change the school’s policy by speaking at the Monroe Community School Corporation board meetings. Parents need to be heard and deserve to be part of the conversation, Bullock said.
Bullock said the prevention efforts by the school have brought the parents to a breaking point. She said she kisses her son before school every morning because she doesn’t know if he’ll come back home.
“We are not asking them to disclose tactile information about their plans to keep our kids safe,” Bullock said. “We are asking them to have a dialogue about decisions that were made in light of what happened.”
There are some parents who have yet to send their children back to school due to increased panic following the gun incidents, Douglas said.
“I am not a teacher. I don’t have the capacity to do that at home, so I have to send my kids,” Douglas said. “This is not about politics. This is about allowing the student resource officers the tools they need to do their job. Which in turn, will help faculty and students feel confident the officers can do their jobs.”
There are school safety committees in every school in the district, according to a press release from the Monroe County School Corporation. The safety committees consist of MCCSC representatives, state and local law enforcement agencies, fire departments, emergency management, IU Health, public health, juvenile probation and mental health agencies.
School board member April Hennessey said she understands the parents’ concerns, but there is a commitment to not frontload schools with fear.
“I do think that for many people, guns signal or signify that we have something to be afraid of,” Hennessey said. “For many of our students who have grown up in unsafe home environments or in complicated relationships with law enforcement, that in and of itself can be triggering.”
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Hennessey said she did not want anyone to think the decision to disarm the resource officers was made without careful consideration. She said the school board takes many measures, such as strengthening their safety committees to keep students and faculty safe without armed resource officers.
School resource officer associations heavily oppose the school board’s vote to disarm the school resource officers, according to a press release from the Indiana School Resource Officers Association and the National Association of School Resource Officers. The associations said in the release they believe the success of any school resource officer program requires officers to be fully equipped to protect and serve schools, meaning they should always be armed.
“Disarming SROs makes schools soft targets for acts of lethal violence and endangers officers who are often the first targets of school violence,” the release said. “Hindering their ability to fulfill the law enforcement role is detrimental to the program and contrary to the position’s definition. This barrier could result in injury to or death of the most vulnerable members of the community – children.”