Former police officer in charge of safety at South Bend schools

NOW: Former police officer in charge of safety at South Bend schools

SOUTH BEND, Ind-- This week, the South Bend Community School Corporation (SBCSC) announced it’s implementing a clear backpack policy for all students.

This comes after a series of incidents where firearms were found in South Bend schools.  

Addressing the policy Wednesday was Eric Crittendon, the security and emergency preparedness director for the district.  

And he says the new clear backpack policy is just the first step to preventing any future violence in South Bend schools.  

“A graduate of Washington High School in 1986, not to date myself,” Crittendon said. “Obviously in 1986, students weren’t as violent as they are now, to be quite honest with you.”

Eric Crittendon started as a South Bend police officer in 1990.  

His 33-year career in law enforcement includes being a student resource officer and a supervisor of SROs.  

“It goes back to the old cliché,” he said, “when teachers feel safe, kids learn. Kids learn when they feel safe.”  

Crittendon even helped found the Indiana School Resource Officers Association.  

“SROs do increase security at the school,” Crittendon said. “I have to put the myth that’s out there to rest that SROs are not there to arrest students. We’re there to build relationships, not only with students but staff, and to keep our young adults out of the criminal system.”  

His first big policy: implementing clear backpacks next school year.  

“I went back to the last few instances we’ve had where it was found that a weapon was found actually inside the backpack and not on the person.”  

The district is spending about $80,000 on 20,000 backpacks.  

Kareemah Fowler, assistant superintendent and CFO of SBCSC said they’re modeling their policy after the empowerment zone.  

“They did pilot this and it has gone really well for them, so we were able to work with them on best practices and things of that nature,” Fowler said. “Prohibited items were coming in schools that they had taken from students in the past, and those numbers were down drastically.”  

But some parents are not optimistic.

“This is the next level of added security that we thought was best, so we’re going with clear backpacks,” Crittendon said.

The new clear backpack policy starts this upcoming school year, and the first day is Aug. 16.  

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