Letter to the Editor

Local communities must address school safety issues

Friday, May 25, 2018

To the Editor:

Every generation has certain markers or events that are influential to the way a group of people think and view the world. For me, a significant event was the Columbine school shooting. I remember growing up in school practicing active shooter drills, hiding under my desk or the coatroom until our teacher gave us the all clear that the drill was over.

I watched as these incidents shifted from being a freak occurrence to something that is normalized as an experience in American culture. With the inadequacies of the federal government and our state government refusing to address these issues in this legislative session, local communities need to take action into their hands in order to find solutions to school violence.

Safety first starts at the home. According to the Indiana Kids Count Data Report from 2018, Putnam County ranks No. 10 in the state as one of the highest counties in need of services. Since 2012, DCS cases have almost quadrupled in our county as well. Further, Indiana ranks No. 44 out of 50 states in its guidance counselor per student ratio. Children who experience high stress in their early stages of brain development are at high risk for behavioral problems later in life.

To further prioritize the safety of children at school, there was much discussion in the Sheriff primary about resource officers at schools. While this is one positive way to address the issue, it important to note the overall cost of a program to the county. With 15 resource officers, one at each public school, a salary of $35,000 plus $10,000 benefits package (benefits normally cost 30% of salary) equates to $682,500 a year for staffing alone and does not include training, uniforms, and administrative costs.

Every parent I talk to wants their kids to be safe when they go to school. Safety from gun violence, safety from bullying, and safety to learn so their kids can best succeed in their future life. Safety, however, comes at a financial price and it is clear to me that our county will continue to see cuts to our education budgets and the state government will continue to delay action on major issues like DCS and opiate addiction.

If our community wants safety in our schools, then we need to not only talk about the costs of resources officers, but also address the issues around the increase of DCS cases in our community and ask local elected leaders for guidance and to take leadership on these issues.

Matt Cummings