School safety grant program could expand when lawmakers meet in May

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – A grant that helps schools fund security measures to protect students and other people on campuses across the state could soon see additional funding available. The Indiana Secured School Safety Grant program, which currently has a $9 million budget, could get an additional $5 million as early as the upcoming school year.

The Secured School Safety Grant (SSSG) program was signed into law in 2013. Money began going to public school districts and private and charter schools in 2014. To date, the program has delivered more than $39 million in matching grants to Indiana schools to address potential safety threats and help school administrations and staff prepare.

Under the program’s current rules, money can be used for:

  1. Employing a school resource officer (SRO).
  2. Purchase equipment and technology that either restricts access to school property or expedites notification to law enforcement and first responders.
  3. Conduct a threat assessment.

Right now, schools with 1,000 or more students can apply for a $50,000. Schools with less can be awarded up to $35,000.

Roughly $8 million of the funds available for the current school year were claimed, with approximately 220 grants approved.

The Associated Press has reported grant applications requested totaled $3.5 million more than budgeted for the new school year in the fall.

“[School safety] is very much on everybody’s mind, which it should be,” said Bryan Langley, the executive director at the Indiana Department of Homeland Security.

The DHS leader is the chairman of a seven member board that approves or disapproves applications.

Langley said even with the additional requests, there are still plenty of districts that are not aware of program.

“You might have a lot of rural schools that might have a lot of money, but if they can go to this grant to support their safety and security that is a really critical thing,” said Langley.

Beech Grove City Schools has reached funds through the grant. The district, which received the $50,000 maximum for its size last year, has one full-time SRO and four part-time SROs.

“Every school district should take advantage of the grant, or at least look into it, because I can’t imagine them not spending the finances that the grant provides,” said Dr. Steve Bair, the assistant superintendent at BGCS, who oversees curriculum and instruction. “Every school district has security of some nature.”

Each SRO is also a member of the Beech Grove Police Department.

With additional funding could come more expansions to addressing security. Langley said the program could possibly reduce or eliminate the matching criteria for school districts to meet. It could also include new ways of security addressing mental health.

“I think there’s a lot actually on the playing field on about how we may need to change or look at things a little differently,” said Langley.

Deadlines are approaching for schools to get funding for the upcoming school year. They must fill out an intent to apply by Friday, April 27. Grant proposals and budgets must be submitted by May 21.

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