Photo: Dave Conner / Flickr
Vigo County School Corporation leaders say they embrace a proposal from the county sheriff to add more officers to middle and elementary schools. Educational experts say the key to the idea’s success may be in how the officers’ jobs are defined.
A suggestion in its early phases would see Vigo County Sheriff Greg Ewing hire three officers to be placed in schools. Vigo County School Corporation Director of Student Services Ray Azar says he thinks the additional law enforcement would make students and staff feel safer in the wake of the Connecticut shootings.
“By their presence and their visibility, it would send the message that we are serious about school safety and security,” Azar says. “I think it would calm some anxieties among the public.”
The proposal, while still in its infancy, is in line with a recommendation issued Friday by the National Rifle Association, whose leaders argue more police carrying firearms in schools can bolster student safety. But both Azar and Russ Skiba, an Indiana University professor who teaches psychology in IU’s School of Education, say police should not be seen primarily as keepers of the peace.
“Where there have been difficulties is if the police presence is not well-defined in terms of the school’s mission, but they’re somehow kept separate,” Skiba says.
Skiba says more successful integration of police officers in other schools across the country has been achieved by allowing interaction between students and officers outside of just a disciplinary context.