Goshen News, Goshen, IN

April 7, 2013

THIRD HOUSE: Worries expressed about ‘Wild West’ culture

By SCOTT WEISSER
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — Will it make anyone safer?

During Saturday’s Third House session in Goshen, opinions were mixed on a state legislative proposal that would require armed personnel in Indiana’s public and charter schools. That job could fall to a police officer or other non-educators, but it could also be filled by a teacher or principal.

Former teacher Tom Holtzinger voiced concern about the bill, which was approved 9-3 by the House Education Committee last week.

“I hope we get beyond this idea that by having an armed guard, you’ve going to solve, prevent all types of violence in schools,” he said.

Holtzinger said an armed guard who’s not in the right place at the right time can’t provide that much security. He also feels the notion of an armed guard provides a false sense of security for people.

“I think we need to get a little more sanity,” Holtzinger said.

In his view, there are small steps people can take to improve security in homes, schools, businesses and elsewhere without feeling like everyone needs to be packing a weapon as in the old Wild West.

State Sen. Carlin Yoder, R-Middlebury, said the bill mandates one armed person in each school. That person doesn’t have to be an educator, he said — it could be a policeman or anybody.

“I don’t consider that to be the Wild West,” Yoder said. “I’m not sure it’s the right answer. I know it won’t solve all our problems as far as violence in schools and so on. But as a father, it would make me feel a little more secure, personally, knowing my first-grader was in a school where there was at least somebody there who could fight back if necessary. Whether he’s in the right spot at the right time or not is obviously part of the issue.”

Yoder also said that if he was a school administrator and required to have armed personnel, he probably wouldn’t recruit a teacher or administrator to do it.

“I would probably find an outside, trained individual to be there who could focus his whole attention on the safety of the school and not teaching geometry at the same time,” he said.

Goshen Mayor Allan Kauffman said he’s opposed to the legislative proposal. He’s also concerned about the mandate applying only to public schools.

“If we feel we need to put armed guards in the public schools but not the private schools, is that one more reason that people should send their kids to the private schools because the public schools aren’t safe?,” he said after the meeting. “Are we sending that perception that the Christian school can object to having an armed guard in the halls, but Christian parents in the public schools don’t have the chance to object? Are we giving kids one more reason not to send their kids to public schools?”