Signing for Safer Schools

New Indiana Law, House Bill 1093, Requires Further Training for School Resource Officers

Ryan Luhmann

In recent years, students may have noticed an increase in police officers among public schools in America. These school resource officers (SRO) have been put in place with the purpose of preventing dangerous situations for students and to be of assistance if necessary. With increased discussions on safety within schools due to gun violence and other factors, many schools across the country felt this would help alleviate the anxiety many students face. With this though, there has also been an uproar of people and videos coming out showing instances of unprofessional and unsafe behavior from some resource officers. As this is becoming such a prevalent topic, discussions over the accountability of these officers have been brought to light and more recently, a bill was passed in Indiana that hopes to improve upon this issue.

Some people have argued that an increase of officers in schools does not prevent school shootings and rather point to research that suggests their amplified presence leads to increased chances of suspensions, expulsions, and arrests among underage students. As social media has become more of a prevalent tool used to capture examples of injustice, more stories have come out on what can happen when resource officers don’t receive proper background checks or training. In 2019, surveillance footage captured a resource officer at a southern Florida school for children with emotional and behavioral disabilities tackling a 15-year-old girl to the ground. In November of the same year, a resource officer was captured on camera at a New Hampshire school tackling a 15-year-old boy after coming out of a bathroom that the officer said he was vaping in. In January of 2021, a 16-year-old girl was tackled and knocked unconscious by a school resource officer at another Florida school following a near confrontation with another student. It was reported by other students that they had already separated before the officer tackled her. Most recently, In March of 2022, a resource officer was accused of sexually abusing a 14-year-old student at an Auburn High School.

These incidents, having obviously caused uproar, have also been able to lead to some changes. On March 14th, 2022, Indiana Governor, Eric Holcomb, signed House Bill 1093. The new law requires that starting June 30th, 2023, when resource officers are hired in schools, they must receive specific training. This training involves 40 hours of basic SRO training from the National Association of School Resource Officers, the Indiana Law Enforcement Training Board, or another approved program. Within this training, officers will receive specific lessons on how to deal with children, understand their brain development, learn how to interact with students with disabilities, and much more. It is stated that the officers must complete this training within 180 days of when they are assigned their duties as an SRO. The law also enforces that school corporations who want to get in a contract for an SRO but don’t maintain their own police departments, must enter a memorandum of understanding with the law enforcement agency the officer works for. This further ensures the duties of the officer and keeps schools from reassigning their duties.

Chase Lyday, the director of the Indiana School Resource Officer Association, said in an interview with Indianapolis radio station, WFYI, that before this, there was a loophole that allowed police who worked in schools to not receive the training so long they had not claimed to be an SRO. Lyday highlights that there are an unknown number of officers who work in Indiana schools who have not been properly trained to interact with and deescalate situations involving children. The new bill redefines an SRO as “a law enforcement officer who is assigned to one or more school corporations or charter schools during school day hours.” This ensures that all officers who work around children are held accountable and that the safety of children within schools remains the number one priority.