Indiana Lawmakers Seek to Curb Overzealous Active-Shooter School Trainings

Indiana State Capitol

Indiana State Capitol Henryk Sadura/Shutterstock

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STATE AND LOCAL ROUNDUP | California’s measure to change when police can use deadly force passes out of committee …North Carolina mails millions to fishermen still reeling from Hurricane Florence … Florida braces for courting gators.

An Indiana Senate committee took action recently to prevent a repeat of the kind of overzealous active-shooter school training that saw sheriff’s office instructors armed with airguns conducting mock executions of teachers made to line up kneeling against a wall. The training at the Twin Lakes School Corporation’s Meadowlawn Elementary School in Monticello, Indiana, made national headlines. Teachers told the IndyStar that, without warning, they were sprayed by instructors with plastic pellets that left welts on their bodies. “They told us, ‘This is what happens if you just cower and do nothing,’” said one of the teachers. “They shot all of us across our backs. I was hit four times. It hurt so bad.” At the urging of the state’s teachers union, the Senate education committee voted unanimously last week to amend a school safety bill to prohibit training instructors from firing any kind of ammunition at school employees or students. White County Sheriff Bill Brooks, whose department led the Meadowlawn training, said his staff for years has conducted school trainings that have included firing the same Airsoft plastic pellets used in Meadowlawn. “It’s a soft, round projectile,” he said. “They key here is ‘soft.’” Brooks’ department was conducting an ALICE training. It was one of thousands of “Alert Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate” program trainings run by law enforcement in schools around the country. "ALICE is committed to keeping students, teachers, and everyone working in schools safe," the ALICE Training Institute said in response to the Meadowlawn incident. The Indiana Senate committee also adopted a second amendment to the school safety bill that would require parents to opt in to any mental health services or surveys offered at schools and could sue school districts for violating those rights. Fines could climb as high as $10,000. The sponsor of the amendment told the IndyStar that parents whose wishes are violated sometimes need more than an apology. [IndyStar, Washington Post, CNN]

USE OF FORCE | The California Act to Save Lives, or Assembly Bill 392, which deals with deadly use of force by police, cleared a first hurdle in Sacramento on Tuesday.  Members of the Committee on Public Safety voted 5-2 to advance the measure after hours of emotional testimony. The bill updates the current “reasonable” deadly force standard to “necessary” and would make it easier to file criminal charges against officers who use lethal force. Supporters say the bill would push officers to rely on non-violent de-escalation and crisis-intervention techniques. Police oppose the bill. “The problem is the standard would be applied in hindsight,” said Shane LaVigne, lobbyist for the California Fraternal Order of Police, adding that the bill would require “superhuman decision making that is simply not possible.” [Sacramento Bee]

DISASTER RELIEF | The North Carolina Division of Marine Fisheries is mailing out a second round of checks to the state’s commercial fishermen, who are still struggling with the wreckage left by Hurricane Florence last September. The division sent out 1,000 checks totaling $7.2 million this week after earlier sending out $3.2 million to 680 fishermen. The money is part of a state hurricane relief package. Florence destroyed boats, gear, landings and buildings at the state’s fishing docks. [AP]

VOTING | Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant and Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, both Republicans, are seeking to block a court-ordered redrawing of a state Senate district designed to increase black representation at the state Capitol. In February, U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves ruled in favor of arguments made by voting rights groups that Senate District 22 dilutes black voting power and ordered lawmakers to redraw it. An appeals court panel upheld the ruling. Bryant and Hosemann have asked the entire 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to hear new arguments. [APNews]

PARDONS | Pennsylvania officials have appointed Brandon J. Flood to oversee the state’s complex pardons process. Flood, who will become the new secretary of the Board of Pardons, is a former policy and legislative director who was also recently pardoned by Gov. Tom Wolf for convictions on three nonviolent drugs and weapons crimes. Flood committed the crimes when he was a teenager and young adult. [Post Gazette]

SMART CITIES | Deutsche Telekom has produced a “toolbox” to help city administrations, residents and companies jointly design intelligent cities. Partners include United Smart Cities (USC) and the German Association of Towns and Municipalities (DStGB). Deutsche Telekom said the toolbox it has created has been tried and tested over the past few months with more than 20 city partners. The company says it will help build, test and implement prototype intelligent services. [Smart Cities World]

GATORS | It’s courting season for the estimated 1.3 million Florida alligators, a public safety hazard in the Sunshine State. One of them made national headlines this week for sunning itself on a popular beach. The state’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that 6,700 nuisance alligators were killed or relocated in 2017, while that figure grew to 7,114 in 2018. High “removal areas” include Tampa, Sarasota, Orlando, Fort Myers and Jacksonville. The Florida Times Union this week posted an interactive gator-tracking map. [Florida Times Union, Orlando Sentinel]

John Tomasic is a journalist who lives in Seattle.

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