Avon population

Most elementary schools in Indiana do not have a school resource officer

INDIANAPOLIS — Most elementary schools in central Indiana don’t have their own school resource officer, or SRO, WRTV Investigates has learned.

School police who responded to the Robb Elementary School shooting in Texas have come under fire for their slow response—19 children and two teachers died in the Uvalde shooting.

The tragedy has heightened conversations and scrutiny surrounding the presence of school police and school resource officers in Indiana.

Most elementary schools do not have their own SRO

Most elementary schools in Indiana do not have their own school resource officer.

This is the case at Avon where Chase Lyday is the Chief of Police for the Avon School Police Department.

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Lyday declined to disclose exactly how many school resource officers are assigned to each Avon building.

“Our staffing plan is evolving and reassessing needs,” Lyday said.

He says a big part of his job is getting to know the students.

“Sometimes there’s this view that school resource officers are just sitting around waiting for something to happen,” Lyday said. “The essence of what an SRO does is find children and build relationships with them.”

Lyday is also president of the Indiana School Resource Officers Association.

He said it would be ideal for each school to have its own SRO.

“We would like to see that,” Lyday said. “For communities and schools that have these resources, we would like to see that. It’s definitely the best.”

WRTV Investigates asked why more schools in Indiana aren’t putting officers in their elementary schools.

“Resources determine capacity,” Lyday said. “We just don’t have the funds or manpower available for an SRO in every school. Some communities have this luxury, but not all.”

WRTV investigations found that Noblesville Schools is one of the few districts in central Indiana to have an ORS in every elementary school.

Carmel Clay schools will also have an SRO in each school for the 2022-2023 school year.

“Starting next year, we will complete our three-year plan for our safety referendum to have at least one SRO in every building, as well as mental health providers in schools,” Emily Bauer, director of relations community for schools Carmel Clay, said in an email to WRTV.

Carmel Clay is using a $40 million security referendum to fund the officers, Bauer said.

Noblesville also uses a referendum to pay school resource officers at its schools.

“Yes, we have full-time SROs in every school,” said Marnie Cooke, director of communications for Noblesville Schools. “This was one of more than 50 safety upgrades funded by our community through our 2018 referendum.”

Muncie updates SRO plan amid criticism

On the same day as the Robb Elementary School shooting in Texas, May 24, Muncie Community Schools announced its partnership with private security firm Legacy Life Security Solutions.

The original plan stated:

  • Three SROs will serve Muncie Central High School
  • Two SROs will serve Northside Middle School
  • Two SROs will serve Southside Middle School
  • One SRO will serve the district’s six elementary schools on a rotating schedule

The initial proposal was the subject of criticism, including from Delaware County District Attorney Eric Hoffman.

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“The lives of thousands of young people are in danger,” Hoffman said. “For me, this is unacceptable. Nowadays, our priority should be to protect.”

Hoffman is concerned about preventing school shootings.

“The disturbing fact is that they happen in elementary schools and we can’t overlook them,” Hoffman said. “If you don’t have school security, that should be number one on your list. If you don’t have it, you don’t have anything. You don’t have a safe environment.”

WRTV told Hoffman that most elementary schools don’t have their own SRO in Indiana.

“I think the norm needs to change,” Hoffman replied.

WRTV also asked Jay Dotson, a former Muncie Police Department reserve officer who owns a company that trains people in active shooter situations.

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“You have to protect these elementary schools just as much as you do high schools,” Dotson said. “I know a lot of times they put the school resource officer resources on the next level, because the older kids because there are physical fights and things like that. But as we have seen recently, elementary schools are vulnerable. I think we all have to protect them equally. “

WRTV investigators have raised concerns with community schools in Muncie.

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To our surprise, they told us that they were planning to add more ORS for elementary schools.

“We are now increasing the security force by two more team members,” said Andy Klotz, spokesperson for Muncie Community Schools. “So we will actually have more security than what we had in our schools.”

Klotz said a community partner stepped up to fund the additional officers.

The total cost of running the outside security company is $675,000 per year.

“Getting every school to have an ORS can be a daunting chore, but we’re well on our way to getting there,” Klotz said. “We’re very close to being able to have that one-on-one relationship in our primary schools. We’re getting there.

The National Association of School Resource Officers recommends that every school have “at least one carefully selected and specially trained school resource officer.”

The association also recommended that schools have at least one ORS per 1,000 pupils.

Muncie will have 11 officers in total for its 5,000 students, which is well beyond the recommendation.

“We are well above the nationally recommended number of ORS,” Klotz said. “We believe we are proactive, open-minded and aggressive in our approach to school safety and school security. We know this is the number one concern and you don’t want to send your child to a school that is unsafe and we believe we have as safe a school system as anywhere.

Not all support more ORS in schools

Heather Hilbert is a Westfield mom concerned about school safety, but she struggles with ORS in elementary schools.

We know that black brown and LGBTQ students have issues with SROS and the use of force, so I have a conflicting opinion on that,” Hilbert said. “In elementary schools, I have a problem with the presence of armed officers around young children. Having this security presence at all times is traumatic for children.

Black students in Indiana schools are being arrested at higher rates than white students, according to federal data analyzed by WRTV Investigates.

PREVIOUS | Black students disciplined at higher rates in Indiana schools

Status data shows that black students make up 12% of the state’s student population, but account for 26% of arrests on school grounds.

This Indiana School-to-Prison Pipeline A study shows that students who have problems in school are more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

Hilbert also volunteers with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

“I think sometimes we forget that a five, six, seven year old is not used to being surrounded by someone in a body armor and a gun to the side…it can be traumatic for him,” Hilbert said.

Some research shows that having armed police does not prevent school shootings.

READ | Study shows armed police don’t prevent school shootings

A study 2021 conducted by researchers at the University of Albany and RAND examined data from US schools between 2014 and 2018 to assess the impact of school resource officers. It found that ORS “effectively reduces some forms of violence in schools, but does not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents”.

What you can ask as a parent

Here’s what you can ask for as a parent:

  • What does our school security look like?
  • Do we have armed officers, and if so, how many? What kind of training do they have?
  • How will I be notified in an emergency?
  • What is our school’s use of force policy?
  • If students are evacuated, how will I be notified and where will I pick up my child?
  • Does the building itself have security systems in place?
  • How can my child report a tip or possible threat?