Consensus forms on school safety


(Terre Haute) Tribune-Star

There are indeed a few issues where the public seems to be in sync with elected state officials.

The 2018 Hoosier Survey released this month found that school safety is the most pressing concern for Indiana residents. What’s more, it tells us that Hoosiers’ preference for dealing with the issue also lines up with top state leaders’ goals.

The survey is conducted each year by Ball State University’s Bowen Center for Public Affairs and Old National Bank.

It shows that 66 percent of people responding list improving school safety as their top priority.

This past year has been another bad year for school shootings, which keeps school safety top of mind for many Americans. The massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida, dominated the news for weeks, and the shootings at a Noblesville middle school north of Indianapolis in the spring brought the issue closer to Hoosiers than ever before. A teacher and student were seriously injured in that incident.

The shooter was a student at the school.

Identifying a top concern is an important community exercise. But reaching a consensus on how to marshal resources to confront it can be a difficult challenge. The good news in the case of school safety is that the public’s favored solutions seem to line up with those being advanced by state leaders, including Gov. Eric Holcomb.

Survey respondents said the best way to improve school safety is addressing issues of mental illness and preventing the mentally ill from obtaining guns. Also at the top of the list of solutions is better mental health screening and treatment.

Holcomb’s plan, released in August after a study was conducted by departments of his administration, covered several areas, but placed key emphasis on enhanced mental health services. It was refreshing to see the governor’s plan was willing to depart from the harsh rhetoric that was being bandied elsewhere around the country about arming teachers and other such fever-pitched, “hardened-schools” nonsense.

While some safety equipment features have been implemented, namely the effort to get more metal detectors in schools, a heavier dose of resources is being targeted at dealing more quickly and effectively with students’ mental health problems.

Identifying troubled students and doing a better job of dealing with potential mental health issues in the schools is a sound strategy the public clearly supports. Having policy-makers on the same page with the public is an encouraging sign moving forward.

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