School board member questions safety at schools


A Seymour school board member is recommending the district do more to increase safety at each of its eight school buildings.

Trustee Jeff Joray spoke during Tuesday night’s school board meeting saying he doesn’t believe the corporation has enough protection from both outside and internal threats.

Seymour Community Schools currently employs three school resource officers with one at the high school, one serving the middle school and sixth grade center and a third that visits all five elementary schools.

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“My issue with the current structure of the SROs is I believe it only provides a false sense of security because all the schools are not manned, and even the ones that have SROs, they’re not always there,” Joray said.

A recent active shooter alarm at the sixth grade center, which turned out to be a false alarm, is what led Joray to speak up about the issue of safety, he said.

“I feel like our students should be better protected than they are,” he said.

Trustee Nancy Franke said she believes Joray’s comments are misleading and create a perception the school corporation isn’t taking steps to improve safety.

“The board and administration are continually evaluating ways to improve our safety and security measures,” she said. “We are always looking to provide more safety and security details.”

Franke said the school system has an outstanding safety committee in place that works continuously on policies and procedures to provide safety and security for students, faculty and staff.

“We keep up to date with best practices and continue to look at ways to improve areas of concern,” she said.

Superintendent Brandon Harpe said administrators discuss safety and security often.

“Keeping students and staff safe is our top priority,” he said.

But Harpe took Joray’s comments differently.

“My interpretation was that he believes there is a different way to keep everyone safe, not that what we are doing now is not safe,” he said. “As always, we will continue to monitor and assess our safety on a daily basis and never be comfortable with where we are.”

Although Joray doesn’t expect a school shooting to happen in Seymour, he said the chance of it happening is greater than it was 20 years ago.

In the spring of 2018, the corporation surveyed employees, at Joray’s request, to find out how they felt about the board taking additional safety measures.

That survey showed staff would like to see the district hire more school resource officers or allow certain trained teachers and staff to have access to guns at school.

“It was 128 teachers, I believe, who said that they would be open to the idea of having the same training as an SRO goes through in order to carry,” he said.

But 165 participants opposed having teachers and staff carry guns at school.

Joray said he wasn’t advocating for teachers to carry firearms in the schools, but he was in favor of having guns in locked safes, which only trained teachers could access.

“In light of some of our schools not having SROs and no guarantee that the SRO is going to be in the school, I, as a parent, would feel safer say having five highly trained teachers having access to a weapon,” Joray said.

Only administrators would know who those teachers are, he added.

The school corporation pays out more than $250,000 annually for its SROs, which is not the most effective use of the taxpayers’ funds, he said.

“That’s a million dollars every four years,” he said. “I believe that those dollars would be better spent in the classroom.”

If the board doesn’t want to train and arm teachers, then it needs to hire SROs for all of the school buildings to be there at all times when students are present, he said.

“Right now, we’re basically picking and choosing which kids we are protecting,” he said.

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