On the Money

Here's why Indiana spends thousands to train people at a school safety academy

Safe schools

How do we make schools safer?

It's a question parents, teachers and students have been urgently asking since the latest school shooting tragedy in Parkland Florida that left 17 dead.

"If I had to pick one question that we get from anyone is really how safe are schools? That's the kind of question people ask before they even get to academic questions," Patrick Sanchez, Superintendent of Newark, California Unified School District told CNBC.

Plenty of companies are willing to help. For example, Indiana based security company Allegion (ALLE) specializes in systems that can lock classrooms at the first hint of trouble.

The Partner for Safer Schools, a non-profit that gets some funding from security companies, estimates that a typical elementary school can be brought up to a basic security standard for $100,000 and it would cost $170,000 for a typical high school.

But some experts say physical security only goes so far.

"It's not an issue of fortifying your front entranceway and throwing up some additional cameras," Ken Trump of National School Safety and Security Services told CNBC. "It's what's behind that fortified entryway in terms of the school climate, the culture, the training, the people side of school safety that makes school safety different and more important and meaningful."

Indiana is one of a few states in the country taking a unique approach to school safety.

The state runs a School Safety Specialist Academy, where at least one member of every school district attends and receives the latest training and information on national and state best practices.

It's been in place since 1999, and in part a response to the Columbine school shooting in Colorado.

School Safety Specialist trainees must go through 5 days of training, and then recertify with two days of training per year after that.

By law, public school districts are required to have one certified school safety specialist. But Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jennifer McCormick, Ph.D., said most districts have between 2 and 5.

"Those are our go to contact folks to make sure that our schools have the training they need, to make sure they are the contact for internal and external stakeholders, make sure we have a great plan in place in each district, and make sure those drills are being done efficiently," Dr. McCormick told CNBC's "On the Money" in an interview.

While the training is mandatory, the districts create safety plans that work best for their schools as opposed to a top down mandate from the state.

"We have about $250,000 that runs through a Criminal Justice Institute Grant and so the School Safety Academy has been going on since 1999. We've not had an increase in funding for that program and we're not asking for that. Any increase in funding that Indiana will go after, we want to go directly to our local districts," Dr. McCormick told CNBC.

New Jersey recently created a School Safety Specialist Academy and Dr. McCormick says she is open to other states coming to learn about their program.

"It is quite a lift, it does take a lot of time and commitment across agencies, but we would be more than happy to share with any state who is interested."

Dr. McCormick says keeping schools safe is a very complex issue and will require "a multi-faceted approach to solutions."

"Part of that is conversation about policy, where are we going to go with gun safety, background checks, those are real conversations we need to have."

The Superintendent also recently wrote a letter to Indiana lawmakers, urging them to take action and pass policies to address school safety.

Her letter states that "these efforts must include passing policies which decrease risks, providing support for social and emotional programs to address mental and behavioral health, and approving budgets that increase resources."

On the Money airs on CNBC Saturdays at 5:30 am ET, or check listings for air times in local markets.

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