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[7] Panel Backs Hershman’s Gang Policy Initiative

STATEHOUSE (Jan. 26, 2012) – The Senate Panel on Education and Career Development voted 7-3 this week in support of State Sen. Brandt Hershman’s gang-policy initiative during a hearing that featured testimony from Tippecanoe County Prosecutor Pat Harrington.

Senate Bill 312, authored by Hershman (R-Buck Creek), is a comprehensive plan that would help educators and law enforcement work together to keep the influence of gangs out of schools.

“Sadly, criminal street gangs are responsible for a major part of the violence in our state,” Hershman said. “Our best defense to keep gang activities out of our schools is to join forces and fight this activity head-on.”

SB 312 connects state agencies, educators, parents, students and law enforcement to combat criminal gang activities in Hoosier school corporations.

Comprehensive educational materials and policies will be developed in conjunction with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, Indiana Department of Child Services, the Indiana Department of Education and other experts. These materials will help schools prevent, recognize and intervene in suspected gang activity. The Indiana Safe Schools Fund will be tapped in order to provide this training to school personnel.

To help educate parents, students and staff, each school corporation in Indiana – including charter schools – will establish criminal gang policies and awareness programs. Hershman’s bill also outlines steps that should be taken by school staff when there is suspected gang activity.

In addition to Harrington, the School Boards Association, Indiana State Teachers Association, Marion County Commission on Youth and the Indiana Urban School Association also testified in support of Hershman’s gang-policy initiative protecting Hoosier students.

Hershman last year was a driving force in securing funding for a pilot program launched in Tippecanoe County aimed at helping law enforcement identify and police criminal gang activity across Indiana.