It's been just over a month since a lone gunman entered an elementary school building in Newtown, Conn. and left a blood trail of 28 people dead ---- including 20 children.
Eastern Greene School District parent John Lesh addressed the school board Monday night and wondered what his young daughter's school district was doing to enhance security in the wake of this latest schoolhouse tragedy.
Supt. Ty Mungle said a very productive and informative county-wide school safety meeting was conducted last week that produced some new procedures that will soon be implemented.
The two-hour meeting was attended by representatives of the county's five school district, representatives from the Greene County Ambulance Service, Greene County Emergency Management Agency, Greene County Prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw and Greene County Sheriff Terry Pierce.
Mungle said all five local school superintendents have met with District 62 State Representative Matt Ubelhor (R-Bloomfield) and voiced their concern over school safety and sought his support for legislation that would make grant funding available to local school districts to implement more stringent safety equipment and to have a school resource officer placed in the schools from the law enforcement community.
Among the easiest ideas to implement changes that came out of the meeting was for the school districts to develop an on-call list of off-duty police officers who live in their respective school territories who could be quickly summoned to the school, if trouble broke out.
"I've had three call me from our area," Mungle told the board.
Among those law enforcement officers who has volunteered is newly-elected Eastern Greene School Board President Mike Adams, a veteran trooper with the Indiana State Police.
Mungle pointed out that two school districts in the county ---- Eastern and White River Valley ---- have a unique security problem because they are situated in areas where there are no law enforcement agencies.
This makes the on-call list of off-duty officers even more important, he said.
Board president Adams agrees and said, "That ought to make us at the top of the grant list."
Mungle said his district will also add to the number of surveillance cameras at its school buildings. In addition, a buzz-in remote entrance system will be installed at a back entrance to the high school.
Among other things that Eastern Greene has implemented in the past to beef up the security of its three buildings is the implementation of a buzz-in entrance system. All visitors to the high school, elementary and middle school buildings have to enter through the office area and then are granted access to the classroom parts of the buildings only after they have been cleared at the front desk, according to Mungle.
Mungle pointed out that there has been discussion about using metal detectors at the school entrances, but with current budget restraints, that idea might be cost prohibitive because the hiring of personnel would have to be made to man the check points.
The superintendent, who called the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting a sad tragedy that happened despite security precautions, like locked doors and law enforcement officers who responded to the scene within one minute of the shooting.
Middle School Principal Doug Lewis and High School Principal Kevin Frank are both trained school safety specialists.
"We are locked down pretty good. It has gotten better (in recent years)," Lewis told the board.
Mungle said the school owes it to the community to provide a safe school environment.
"I know security is our biggest concern. We have to have a safe environment not only for our students, but for our staff and faculty," he said. "It's a lot like a home. It has to be a safe place."
Board member Don Roberts, a former school administrator at Stinesville, said schools by their very nature are a difficult environment to keep safe, but precautions can be taken.
Board president Adams, who said there has been some talk about allowing school administrators to carry Taser-type weapons during school hours, said a plan of action needs to be reviewed and improved where possible.
"I think this is going to be a work in progress...I think we are a pretty safe school."
Adams added, "We're all willing to do what we can to make our schools the safest they can be."
The Eastern board plans to conduct a public work session Jan. 28 to discuss safety issues and hear suggestions from patrons.
The work session will be at 7 p.m.. with a regular meeting before at 6 p.m. An executive session will be held, if necessary, after the work session.