Hundreds gather in Hendricks County to discuss school and workplace security

DANVILLE, Ind. – Hundreds of people will gather in Hendricks County Tuesday to discuss how to prevent violence.

Safe Hiring Solutions, a security firm based in Danville, will host its first-ever school and workplace security summit. Judges, law enforcement officers, legislators, business owners and school administrators from across the state are expected to attend.

“What we’ve seen - especially post Parkland - is the discussion across the country. It’s moving in a ‘secure your building, barricade, what are we going to do? Arm teachers?'” CEO Mike McCarty explained. “How do we handle an active shooter in the hallway?”

McCarty’s approach is more preventative than reactionary.

“We’re not saying any of those things are wrong,” he said. “I just don’t think that is where we want to go first.”

McCarty, a former police sergeant, said there are things schools can do immediately that are either cost effective or free. One idea is that schools need to implement a text-to-tip service so that students can anonymously report suspicious activity.

“You kind of need to get at their level, you know? It has to be text based. It cannot be a phone system,” McCarty said.

At least one local district has such a service. Hamilton Southeastern’s spokesperson said it’s proven successful. The district receives hundreds of tips per year.

“We’ve gotten a lot of good information and I think we’ve saved lives,” assistant superintendent Dr. Michael Beresford said. “If they want a safe school, our students have to be players in it.”

Beresford said Hamilton Southeastern invested millions of dollars' worth of security into their schools after the Sandy Hook shooting. The text-to-tip system, in contrast, cost next to nothing. The communication has been around for years.

“Kids can text in a tip. It will come to an administrator and the Fishers Police Department. Then, we can take that information and do something with it,” he said. “They say, ‘Hey, there is a kid from another school in our cafeteria.’ They could text back, ‘What was he wearing, where did you see him?’”

Safe Hiring Solutions says schools and workplace facilities also need to focus on entry ways.

“A lot of it has to do with control of the people coming in and out of a school,” McCarty said. “I’ll be honest with you. There is a lot more that could be done. I think about it purely from a father standpoint.”

McCarty’s company offers technology that only a handful of schools currently use, including a type of software that confirms identity and performs visitor background checks. When a person walks into the building, he or she must provide an ID. The software also verifies that the person is not a sexual predator. If the person is cleared and on property for a valid reason, the administrator captures the person’s photograph and signs them in. They receive a badge with a color-changing sticker that will indicate if the person has been at the school for too long.

If the software shows a red flag, the school or workplace can deny the person by hitting a silent alarm. That button notifies a school resource officer and other administrators that someone needs escorted off property.

“We don’t want our schools to be like prisons but we also want good security,” Beresford explained. “The parents appreciate it. Sometimes, it’s not very convenient but they know why we do what we do.”

Safe Hiring Solutions went on to explain that while a lot of schools want to put up a secured perimeter around the building, schools and workplace facilities need to consider expanding it to include the parking lot and entire property.

“Our premise is if the active shooter is in the hallway, we’ve failed,” McCarty said.

CBS4 checked with one of the largest school systems in Indiana to see what their security measures are. An Indianapolis Public Schools spokesperson said the district has a standardized security system that includes locked exterior doors, cameras at every entrance and a pager system in which each visitor must be buzzed into the building.

“Once inside, visitors are funneled directly into the office-secondary doors to the building are locked. Once in the office, visitors must sign in,” the spokesperson emailed.

Some IPS schools, like Ralph Waldo Emerson School 58, have taken it upon themselves to provide an extra layer of security. IPS schools are “welcome to add additional equipment at their own expense.”

The Department of Education confirmed while they audit about 60 schools per year to evaluate school security, there are no state laws requiring certain measures outside of fire alarms. A spokesperson said there are just “protocols.”

After 17 school shootings and at least 30 mass shootings so far in 2018, Indiana legislators are considering investing millions of dollars into security options. They introduced a bill in the 2018 session, but the bill didn’t make it through in time.