School safety forum aims to ease fears of Noblesville parents

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NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – Weeks after the Parkland, Florida school shooting, the debate over school safety continues. Governor Eric Holcomb has called for a special legislative session and one of his goals is to get a school safety bill passed, after it failed when the regular session ended last week.

However, local school districts are already taking the reins themselves and are working to improve safety, along with keeping parents informed. ​On Monday night, Noblesville parents were at a school safety forum put on by the district. For most, the Parkland shooting was still fresh on their minds.

“It caused me to actually reach out to [District Superintendent] Dr. Niedermeyer and say, ‘What are we doing, what’s the school district doing?’” said Rebecca Gordon, a parent who has four kids in the district.

Other parents said they were pleased with what was covered at the event.

“They were talking about things they’ve been doing over the past five to ten years,” said parent Darren Ratcliff, “that I think makes me feel better.”

School officials and law enforcement both laid out their strategies Monday, hoping a forum like this one could also generate some fresh ideas.

“We want to listen to what parents have to say,” said Noblesville Police Chief Kevin Jowitt, “we also want to tell them what we’re doing right now, and the kinds of things we’re looking at doing in the future.”

Officials say they’ve got a three-pronged approach: prevention, deterrence, and delay.

“I think it’s important to know that we’ve got really strong safety measures in place, and we’re revisiting those all the time,” said Noblesville School Superintendent Dr. Beth Niedermeyer.

All of this comes as state leaders work to nail down passage of the state’s school safety bill and its $5 million in safety grants.

“We are a firm believer that no matter what your choice of school is, you should have an assurance of some threshold of safety,” said Indiana Department of Education Superintendent Jennifer McCormick, at an event also on Monday.

Officials at the forum in Noblesville said they’re one of only a few districts holding an open forum like this, with a two-way conversation aimed at keeping kids safe and putting parents at ease.

“It’s a tough balance,” said parent Jeff Behlmer, “you want your kids to be safe, but you also don’t want them to feel like they’re going to prison every day when they go to school.”

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