VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — School safety is an important topic for both parents and educators, Vigo County School Corporation said it’s one of the most important issues they deal with.

School leaders believe that as parents, teachers, administrators, police officers, mental health workers, and more we can work together as a community to better educate the youth on important safety issues, including access to firearms.

Kim Fidler, UniServ Director at the Indiana State Teachers Association, said, “We all have to work together and so having those police officers, that presence in the building, in my opinion, has been nothing but positive.”

Dr. Tom Balitewicz, Interim Superintendent of Vigo County School Corporation said “Our School Protection Officer (SPO) program is probably second to none in the state. We have at least one trained school protection officer in every school and some schools we have three. And that is such an added advantage in a school in terms of school safety but also easing the minds of parents.”

Balitewicz said it’s a societal issue and it’s important that conversations start at home.

“We need to all work together to reinforce those ideas,” Balitewicz said. “Just about safety of weapons or firearms, taking that personal responsibility and making sure that you do secure those things and have those conversations in your home about it,” he added.

Faculty, staff, and students at Vigo County Schools receive ALICE Training. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter, and evacuate. It’s a program designed to empower schools and individuals to respond to a violent, critical incident with confidence.

“The ALICE approach is so different than the typical training that we have given teachers in the past. It gives them some options, gives them some flexibility in terms of responding to a critical incident that may occur in a school,” Balitewicz said.

As part of the training, students at Vigo County Schools learn how to identify situations before they become dangerous.

“We want students to be aware,” Balitewicz said. “That’s what the ‘A’ in ALICE stands for and we want them to be able to report anything that they may feel is out of sorts. And you know, see something, say something, we try to preach that as much as we can,” he added.

Vigo County Schools have implemented programs for students to report issues easily and anonymously. The STOP-IT app is on every Chromebook issued through the corporation. School leaders want students to feel comfortable reporting.

“One of the biggest concerns that we have with bullying, harassment, any of those types of things, is the trepidation or hesitation or reporting something to staff. We really need to train our students and our parents to try to get over that hesitation hurdle and to be able to report things without having that fear that it’s going to come back on them,” Balitewicz said.

Balitewicz said that they can strengthen their partnership with parents by making sure they understand the ideas on what they can do when it comes to reporting. As well as further educating parents on the signs and symptoms of bullying. The issue leaders noted it’s very serious and Vigo County School Corporation wants to be sure they are prepared.