A bill to create specialized firearm training for teachers and school staff, and allow state funds to pay for it, was approved Monday morning by an education committee at the Statehouse.
The bill’s author, Rep. Jim Lucas (R-Seymour), reminded lawmakers that Indiana schools already have the authority to arm teachers, and his bill establishes a 40-hour voluntary firearm training program.
"This is voluntary," Lucas says. "This isn't taking the place of anything else, hardening facilities or mental health treatment. This is in addition to when all else fails."
He noted several other bills this legislative session that would expand mental health treatment in schools and provide other programming not targeted towards school hardening.
Some testified against the controversial bill, including a representative from the Indiana State Teachers Association and a student advocate from Noblesville schools. Washington Township parent Kristina Frey told lawmakers this bill isn’t the answer.
"So what is this bill going to do? Get maybe a handful of people this training," Frey says. "Why are we spending time on this? Why are we spending money on this?"
Several speakers pointed out the likelihood of being caught in a school shooting is slim, and the militarization of schools could inhibit children's education.
Supporters of the bill included a representative from the National Rifle Association and Jay County Schools Superintendent Jeremy Gulley. Gulley's rural school district is one of several districts that have chosen to arm teachers, however guns are kept in locked safes across the school.
"Indiana law permit school boards to do what we have done," Gulley says. "Some are considering doing so, more will do so after the next school shooting."
Gulley says police wouldn't have enough time to respond in an active shooting event since Jay County Schools is a rural district.
Lucas estimates the training would cost between $1,500 and $2,000 per participant.
Amendments to the bill clarified that not only teachers could receive this training but all school staff, and the program is not required.