Area schools weigh in on teacher firearms training law


Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed a bill allowing teachers to apply for state funding for firearms training.

House Bill 1177 authored by State Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour, was signed into law by Holcomb earlier this month. Under the legislation, which takes effect July 1, it creates a 40-hour firearms safety, education and training curriculum for teachers, school staff and employees. 

Lucas also pointed to his position regarding firearms. 

“Sadly, it’s something that’s necessary for the tragic world we live in today,” Lucas said.

In an interview with Current earlier this year, State Sen. Andrea Hunley, D-Indianapolis, commented on guns and arming teachers with them in schools. 

“We talk a lot about parental rights in the Legislature. Parents should have the right to be informed of their school district’s policy on arming teachers,” Hunley said. “Parents should have the right to determine whether or not their child is in a classroom with a loaded weapon. I understand the argument that since the state allows teachers to carry guns, the state should support ensuring that the teachers are trained. What I don’t understand is why we aren’t addressing the root causes that got us to this point in the first place.

“Instead of addressing a symptom of lax gun regulations, let’s address the regulations we could put in place to make our entire state safer.” 

The law means employees can apply for grant funding for gun training through the state’s school secured fund, which would require schools to ensure that individuals comply with certain requirements. 

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C., said on its website that Indiana generally prohibits individuals, including those who have a license to carry a handgun from knowingly or intentionally possessing a firearm on school property and property that is being used by a school for a school function or on a school bus.

However, the organization also notes that Indiana law has exceptions to that restriction, “including for people who are not students at the school and are otherwise legally eligible to possess firearms” if they are authorized by a school board or charter school administrative body to carry a concealed firearm in or on school property,” are school resource officers or if they possess a firearm in a motor vehicle, according to its website. 

But the legislation signed into law by Holcomb authorizes funds from the state’s secured school fund and school corporation and charter school safety advance program to be used “for the purpose of providing specialized firearms instruction to certain teachers, school staff, and school employees.”

Funding could also be used “for providing counseling services to students, teachers, school staff, and school employees in the event of a school shooting,” according to the legislation.

A message seeking comment from Indiana State Teachers Association spokeswoman Kim Clements-Johnson on the organization’s position regarding the legislation was not immediately returned by deadline.

Reaction from the schools

  • Carmel Clay Schools has a school resource office at every campus which is not the case in many districts.

    “In our commitment to maintaining a safe learning environment, we prioritize the expertise and training of dedicated school resource officers and the full Carmel Police Dept. to ensure the continued safety of students and staff,” said Emily Bauer, director of community relations at Carmel Clay Schools. 

  • Emily Pace Abbotts is the director of School and Community Relations for Hamilton Southeastern Schools. She said HSE policies do not allow employees to be armed on school property. She said the district has eight full-time Fishers Police Department school resource officers.

    “We are fortunate to have a long-standing and strong partnership with Fishers Police Department and a dedicated unit of School Resource Officers that work in our buildings,” she said. “Additionally, our staff and school administration take part in ongoing school safety training.”

    Pace Abbotts said the district appreciates funding lawmakers made available for counseling in case of a crisis.

    “There are many layers to school safety, and we believe funding for mental health services is an important strategy in keeping students and staff safe,” she said.

  • Dana Altemeyer is the Director of Communications with the Metropolitan School District of Lawrence Township. She stated in an email response to a request for information that the MSD of Lawrence Township does not currently have policies allowing school employees to carry guns on school grounds. She said the district doesn’t have plans at this time to revisit that policy.

    The district does have a school resource officer program in place with 53 officers visiting schools throughout the district. 

  • Marnie Cooke, spokeswoman for Noblesville Schools, said the district is one of only a few in the state that has school resource officers in all of its schools.

    “We do not have plans to offer firearms instruction to teachers,” Cooke said. 

  • Westfield Washington Schools Supt. Paul Kaiser said he believes it is appropriate for the district to continue working with its existing school resource officers from the Westfield Police Dept. rather than providing firearms training for teachers.

    Kaiser added that he believes that is a better solution with plans to have SROs at all  school buildings within the district. Those individuals, he said, could also serve as mentors to children as well.

    “It takes a special type of person that we want to work with our kids in the Westfield community,” Kaiser said. “But we’re 100 percent committed to having an officer in every building.

  • ZCS Supt. Rebecca Coffman did not respond to Current’s request for comment for this story.

Editor Natalie Gargiulo contributed to this story.