This isn’t about hateful thinking. This is about committing a crime. There is where this issue kind of got off track. People thought we were going to criminalize the thought and speech. It’s quite the contrary … Indiana is sending a message that if you’re targeted and a crime is committed on you, judges will take that into account.
Q: The last time around, it was the gender identity issue that was the hang up on the bill. Do you want to see that included in the new bill?
A: Our state employment policy since 2005 has included sexual identity and gender identification, in addition to the other characteristics. I’m comfortable with that. Legislators, I’m sure, are looking at what we already have listed in our code for state employment … and I don’t think we should be scaling it back. I think we should go with what we have and get off the list [of states that don’t have a hate crime law]. If folks want to consider adding to it in the future, so be it. Let’s have that conversation. We already have these protections in places allowing judges to take action because of a hate crime, so let’s just take the next step.
I can tell you there are folks who want to invest in states that are welcoming and who stand behind, by law, what they say.
Q: If legislators do approve a hate crime bill that didn’t include gender identity or sexual identity, would you sign it?
A: I think that would be taking a step backwards. … Let’s do this right. This has been an important topic for a while, and I think the time is right. If we can just get past that this isn’t going to criminalize thought, that this is about crimes committed, and then looking at that as an aggravating factor.
Q: So this isn’t a First Amendment, free-speech issue for you at all?
A: No, you can be wrong 24 hours a day and you can be hateful. That isn’t a crime. But it is when you act out on that and infringe on someone else’s pursuit of happiness.
Q: The working group you convened has recommended that the state improve student safety by boosting funding for security improvements and school resource officers, including conducting active shooter training drills at every school and expanding students’ access to mental health services. Do you think these changes should be implemented, and what other things would you like to see happen on the question of school safety?
A: Nothing can be more important than this topic. That’s why we put so much time and effort in reaching out and talking to so many different Hoosiers and listening to different positions from different parts of the state – urban, rural and suburban – to get all the different perspectives.
One thing became clear through it all. It was a common denominator. We are lacking in terms of mental health expertise that’s at the ready. What we’re doing right now is going through all those recommendations and saying, “OK, how much will that cost?” We’re going through the report and putting fiscal tags on each item so we can figure out how to pay for them, and who pays for it.
We live in a state where schools enjoy and appreciate local control. … There’s a lot of opinions on what should happen, but there was consistency on administrators saying they should be the ones making the final decisions on what to implement. There’s a huge spectrum on how they can secure the inside of their buildings.
So many teachers have told me they know who the potential problem student might be. But what do we do with that information? We don’t know when something is going to happen, but folks are rarely surprised by the “who” in these situations.
Unfortunately, you have to be prepared for the next time. You hope it never comes, but be prepared for it. Part of the preparation and prevention includes having mental health access for school corporations and local communities. How do you get people closer and quicker access to the help they need? And today, you need immediate access.