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10/21/2018 7:22:00 PM
Indiana schools turning to gun safes

Brian Francisco, Journal Gazette Washington Editor

PORTLAND – Jeremy Gulley would not say how many people would have access to gun safes at Jay County schools, or even how many guns and safes there would be.

The superintendent of Jay County School Corp. would not say whether he would be among the administrators, faculty or staff allowed to retrieve a loaded Glock 19 handgun in the event of an attack on a school building – although he did produce a locked, Glock-storing safe during an interview at the administration building in September.

“I believe every kid who goes to a school should go to a school that's protected by some armed presence,” Gulley said at the time.

That presence could be a police officer or a security guard, he said, “or that could be an armed, trained person on the staff.”

Not could be – will be. The school board voted 7-0 on Monday in favor of Gulley's recommendation to have selected volunteers act as a last line of defense in what the superintendent describes as a layered security strategy. 

The board resolution states: “Team members are authorized to use deadly force to protect students, staff members, or others from what is reasonably believed to be an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury due to violence.” Their identities “shall be kept strictly confidential,” the resolution states.

Gulley, who doubles as commanding officer for the Army National Guard unit based in Fort Wayne, developed the security plan soon after a teenage gunman killed 17 people and wounded 17 others Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Teachers, students and parents endorsed Gulley's proposal – 97 percent of them in an online survey. Local law enforcement officials did the same. The school board finalized the plan, minus the trained volunteers chosen Monday, in a unanimous vote in May.

Gulley last month emphasized that the strategy does a lot more than put gun safes in schools. Jay County School Corp. has begun a series of improvements to its buildings to make students safer: a single point of entry for visitors, who will be photographed and checked against a sex offender registry; ballistic doors and windows for classrooms; integrated video cameras that will be linked to law enforcement agencies; and fencing around playgrounds. 

Students will receive cellphone apps to report suspicious or threatening behaviors. Mental health professionals will be in school buildings every day. Retired police officers might be on hand as well.

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