January 14, 2013

Central Illinois School Considers Arming School Administrators

School board members in a central Illinois town are thinking about arming and training a handful of administrators as auxiliary police officers so they can carry guns on campus.

Washington police Chief Jim Kuchenbecker said Monday that training Washington Community High School's administrators as officers is a way around Illinois' law against carrying concealed weapons.

The chief and school Superintendent Jim Dunnan talked about the idea after December's school shootings in Connecticut and presented it to a parents' group last week.

Board members were expected to hear about the plan Monday.

Board President Tim Custis says members should at least be willing to consider the idea.

But Colleen Daley of the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence says she wasn't aware of any other school in Illinois considering such a plan.

January 14, 2013

Chicago Mayor Addresses Gun Control in Washington

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has ordered an analysis of Chicago's city employee pension funds to see if they hold companies that make or sell assault weapons.

Emanuel spoke today in Washington about his support for new gun control measures. He says legislation should focus on limiting criminal access to guns. 

Separately his office announced that Emanuel ordered the pension fund analysis as a "first step'' in removing the companies from city investment plans.

The mayor said the city shouldn't invest in companies that "profit from the proliferation of assault weapons.'' The five city funds are worth more than $13.5 billion.

Emanuel said last week that he is working on a gun control ordinance for the city after an assault weapons ban stalled in the Illinois General Assembly.

January 14, 2013

St. Joseph Man Arrested After Alleged School Threat

A St. Joseph man is in custody after allegedly making threats against the local high school over the weekend.

St. Joseph-Ogden High School Superintendent Jim Acklin says 34-year old Uriah Fosdick allegedly made statements in front of a sheriff’s deputy, indicating he was threatening a shooting at a school.

Acklin says the key concern is that Fosdick lives literally blocks from the school.

“He’s a back door neighbor.” he said. “You could literally throw a rock from his yard, and toss it into our softball diamond.”

Fosdick was arrested by sheriff’s deputies Monday afternoon, and is in the Champaign County Jail on $750-thousand bond.

Acklin says there’s no reason to believe that anyone was involved with Fosdick and his alleged crime.  He says the school is literally on lockdown daily, with all outside doors locked and video cameras.

But he says school officials are always assessing safety standards and St. Joseph-Odgen’s crisis management plan.

January 12, 2013

Indiana University Opposes Guns on Campus

An Indiana state lawmaker's proposal to bar universities from banning guns on campus is raising concerns about the safety of students.

Republican Sen. Jim Banks of Columbia City says he submitted the bill on behalf of college students who want to protect themselves.

A similar measure introduced last year failed to get a hearing, and this year's measure could meet the same fate.

Indiana University spokesman Mark Land tells The Herald-Times that IU opposes the measure and thinks it's in the best position to determine how to keep the campus safe.

IU sophomore Crayle Vanest tells WSBT that allowing students to carry concealed weapons can help deter crime.

Only eight states currently allow guns to be carried on campus. More than 20 have banned the practice.

January 08, 2013

Indiana Lawmakers to Consider Budget, Gay Marriage, School Vouchers

Lawmakers returned to Indianapolis on Monday for the start of their four-month session. The legislature is expected to take up a host of issues during their session, including gun control, a gay marriage ban, and expanding school vouchers.

The state's biennial budget and tax cuts are also among the issues expected to be discussed during the session.

A handful of Republican state senators are pushing to expand access to guns this session. Sen. Jim Banks (R-Columbia City) has proposed allowing students to carry firearms on Indiana's public university campuses.

The measures face little chance of success in the General Assembly this year. But Banks said Tuesday that lawmakers should still have an open and ranging discussion about guns.

Sen. Dennis Kruse (R-Auburn) wants a bill that would exempt guns made exclusively in Indiana from federal rules and regulations.

The proposals go up against a national push for more gun control following the Newtown school shooting. Members of Indiana's Black Legislative Caucus said Tuesday that they would support any national effort to reduce gun violence and are ready to support new federal limits.

There is also a push to ban gay marriage. State Rep. Eric Turner (R-Cicero) said Tuesday he will file a resolution this session to write the state's ban on gay marriage into the Indiana constitution.

Turner was the author of the measure that passed in 2011. It would need to be approved by lawmakers one more time before going before voters for consideration in 2014.

Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma of Indianapolis and Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long of Fort Wayne haven't said whether they'll allow action on the issue this year. Long says his staff is reviewing possible ramifications from a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the topic due next summer.

Indiana lawmakers are expected to consider a measure to expand the state’s school voucher program, but critics worry doing so could shift attention away from strengthening public schools.

Under the voucher program, the state provides assistance to low- and moderate-income families who want to send their children to private school.

Each voucher at the elementary and middle school levels is worth up to $4,500.

Rep. Bob Behning (R- Indianapolis) chairs the House Education Committee.

He plans to introduce legislation to get rid of the $4,500 cap, and lift eligibility requirements for military and foster families, as well as families with children in special education.

“If you philosophically believe that parents should be able to choose the school that best meets the needs of their children,” Behning said. “Then making that choice available to more makes sense in terms of improving education.”

But the Indiana State Teacher's Association’s Teresa Meredith said expanding the voucher program doesn’t fix troubled public schools.

“We should be offering, whatever is needed, support wise, to those students and those families as the best we can through the public school system,” Meredith said. “And if we’re not meeting the needs of those learners in the public school system, then why not?”

Meredith is behind a lawsuit challenging the legality.

Rep. Vernon Smith (D-Gary) said vouchers hurt urban school districts. He wants the General Assembly to wait and see what effect the program is having before making more changes.

More than 9,000 students are receiving vouchers this year.

Meanwhile, the following bills have been assigned by Senate President Pro Tem David Long to the Senate's rules committee, a step typically used to bottle up a proposal and prevent further action toward it becoming law:

  • Prohibit state agencies or public universities from limiting firearms possession except for buildings that house courtrooms.
  • Make any firearms or ammunition made in Indiana and remaining in the state not subject to federal laws or regulation.
  • Allow public school districts to require recitation of the Lord's Prayer at the beginning of each school day.
  • Prohibit abortions being sought based on the gender of the fetus or because the fetus has a genetic abnormality such as Down syndrome.
  • Prohibit many arrests or searches by federal agents without written permission from the local county sheriff.
  • Ban the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, by law enforcement agencies or others to monitor a person or property without consent.
  • Eliminate the use of grand juries by prosecutors to decide the filing of criminal charges.
  • Prohibit Indiana government entities from implementing any policies relating to the United Nation's 1992 conference on the environment, the subject of the novel titled ``Agenda 21'' by conservative commentator Glenn Beck.
  • Block public school districts from starting the school year until after Labor Day unless the district follows a year-round calendar or takes other steps.

January 08, 2013

Attorney General Seeks New Hearing on Concealed Carry

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is trying to salvage the state's ban on concealed carry.

Madigan said Tuesday that she's filed a petition asking that all 10 judges on the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals review a lawsuit challenging the ban.

Last month, a three-judge panel struck down the ban on carrying concealed weapons in Illinois - the only remaining state where doing so is entirely illegal. They gave lawmakers 180 days to write a law legalizing it.

The judges said the ban was unconstitutional and suggested that legalizing concealed carry is long overdue.

Gun advocates had vowed to challenge the ban on every front.

Madigan says the court's decision "goes beyond what the U.S. Supreme Court has held'' and conflicts with decisions by two other federal appellate courts.

January 07, 2013

Illinois Lawmakers Abandon Attempts to Ban Assault Weapons

Illinois lawmakers are abandoning efforts to pass gun control legislation in the final days of their session. An assault weapons ban was one of several major issues that brought State House members back to Springfield on Sunday.

The assault weapons ban legislation was slated to appear Sunday afternoon in front of the House Judiciary Committee. But despite a room packed full of supporters and opponents of gun control legislation, the committee meeting lasted less than two minutes.

“I don’t think there’s much to take away,” said Rep. Lou Lang, a Democrat who sits on the committee. “The sponsor wasn’t ready to call his bill. The amendment hadn’t been drafted and he wasn’t ready.”

When the brief meeting adjourned, several opponents of gun control stood and applauded.

“We will be back like a bad nightmare,” Nathan Moyer, an opponent of the assault weapons ban from Decatur, Ill., shouted to the room as soon as the meeting ended.

He predicted lawmakers will push gun control legislation again.

“Anytime tyranny is put together by the judicial system that is corrupt, the little man will stand,” Moyer said.

Rep. Elaine Nekritz, who chairs the committee that was scheduled to hear the measure, said afterward that the House didn’t act since the Senate failed to approve an assault weapons ban last week.

She said it’s likely to be addressed in the next legislative session, which starts Wednesday.

January 04, 2013

Indiana Lawmakers Seek $10M for School Protection

A legislative proposal in Indiana would help that state put more police officers in schools. Proponents say the legislation isn’t meant to be a response to last month’s Connecticut school shooting.

School resource officers are already present in somewhere between a quarter and a third of Hoosier schools.

Legislation Sen. Pete Miller (R-Avon) is proposing would provide a grant to school corporations – up to a $50,000 funding match – to add resource officers to their schools.

The bill would also require that all school resource officers have law enforcement certification and training to work in a school environment.  Miller calls the proposal a first step in addressing violence like the Newtown school shooting.

“No one is suggesting that this is the end-all, be-all to school security, that there will be others in the legislature, there will be…the governor-elect, I’m sure, would like to weigh in,” Miller said.

Miller said applying for the grants is voluntary.

“This is not a mandate for local school corporations,” Miller said. “This is something that we think is a good idea. We would encourage them to embrace it but we’re not forcing it upon anyone.”

Attorney General Greg Zoeller said while the Connecticut shooting spotlights school safety, resource officers play a larger role.

“This relationship in schools with a school resource officer can help develop a better relationship of respect for law enforcement,” Zoeller said.

Zoeller said school resource officers serve a multi-faceted role within the school.

“In addition to providing school safety and some discipline actions, it also assists in implementing the school’s safety plan, supporting the school safety specialist,” he said.

The proposal, while providing some funding to hire resource officers, would not mandate schools to participate.

January 02, 2013

Ill. Senate Returns Wednesday to Wrap Up Session

The Illinois Senate returns to the Capitol on Wednesday to begin a weeklong legislative session that could take up pension reform, legalizing gay marriage and banning assault rifles.

The 97th General Assembly will finish its work Jan. 9 when a new Legislature is sworn in. That means there are many lame-duck lawmakers not returning who might feel less constrained to vote for contentious issues. The House comes in Sunday.

Gov. Pat Quinn has made it a priority for the assembly to find a solution to the state employee retirement programs that are underfunded by $96 billion.

Supporters of gay marriage say they have enough votes to make Illinois the 10th state to legalize same-sex unions.

A ban on military-style assault weapons is on the agenda after the Connecticut school massacre.

photo of Dr. Judy Myers-Walls
Picture courtesy of Purdue University
December 19, 2012

Purdue Researcher on Discussing Shooting with Kids

The hurt caused by Friday’s horrific shooting in Newtown, Connecticut goes beyond the victims killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Across the country, children are learning about the shooting, and they’re also being affected.

Dr. Judy Myers-Walls, Professor Emerita of Purdue University, has studied how parents can talk with children about frightening events, from wars and disasters to senseless shootings. In an interview with Illinois Public Media's Jim Meadows, Myers-Walls says some children will find news of a shooting at a school very disturbing.

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