Starting next school year, Clark-Pleasant schools could have a full-time security officer walking the halls of its buildings, investigating threats and meeting with students during lunch.
Using a state grant meant to pay for security officers or equipment, the school district wants to hire local police officers to patrol its buildings full time, in addition to having on-duty police officers do periodic walk-throughs of its eight school buildings.
Earlier this month, Clark-Pleasant and Johnson County’s other five public school districts were awarded school safety grants to help pay for either security officers or equipment such as locks, buzzers or security cameras. Clark-Pleasant applied for and received a $50,000 grant, and school officials are considering using that to pay for at least one full-time security officer.
Center Grove, which also received a $50,000 grant, is the only Johnson County school district with full-time security officers. The school district has its own police department, with three officers and a police dog. Franklin, which received a $7,500 security grant, has a security officer who works part time, primarily at the high school.
Several Franklin Police Department officers work security shifts at the high school, and Clark-Pleasant is considering working with the Greenwood, Whiteland and New Whiteland police departments in a similar way. The three police departments would create a pool of five or six school security officers who would work different days when they’re not working for their police department, business office coordinator Jay Staley said.
Last school year, school officials started considering whether they could afford to hire an officer for the entire day, Clark-Pleasant Superintendent Patrick Spray said. That year, the high school had two bomb threats, but he said no specific incident prompted officials to start thinking about hiring a security officer.
“I think every school corporation has been looking to increase that level of (security) any way they can,” Spray said.
Two of the biggest challenges that school districts face in hiring full-time officers are the cost and a state law requiring school security officers to go through 40 hours of training, which costs $500. Indiana started providing the security grants for schools after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. Schools that apply for and receive grants must match the amount provided by the state.
Clark-Pleasant would pay their security officers between $20 and $25 per hour and would start by having officers on duty for a total of 40 hours a week. The school district could decide later to have a second set of officers patrol the schools on a part-time basis, Staley said. School officials are working with police departments to figure out who would pay for the training of security officers, he said.
Clark-Pleasant wants to keep the pool of security officers small so that staff and students will have an easier time recognizing them. When officers are working, they would spend a lot of their time in Whiteland Community High School’s cafeteria so they have a better chance at getting to know and recognizing students and teachers, but they would regularly patrol the other schools as well.
The school district would continue to invite other police officers to stop through the schools as part of their regular patrols.
“The more people we can get in our buildings the better,” Staley said.
Most local schools that received grants last school year opted to buy security cameras, buzzers for their locks or other one-time purchases. Officials said they wanted to hire security officers but worried about how they would pay for the cost of more workers if the state stopped providing the security grants.
By creating a pool of security officers who already are employed by area police departments, Clark-Pleasant wouldn’t have to cut a full-time employee if state funding changes. The school district would instead adjust the security officers’ hours, Spray said.