Local groups advocate for a Child State of Emergency

ELKHART, Ind. -- A grassroots collective of local parents are pushing for legislation to keep Hoosier children safe.

Rio's Rainbow and the Parent Coalition for Child Safety and Wellness are calling on lawmakers to make Indiana the first state in the country to institute a Child State of Emergency.

Local parents backing the initiative say it could be the saving grace for so many kids that don't feel safe at school.

"What is the number of the amount of kids that have to die from this kind of behavior in our schools and communities that will raise the alarm?" asks Aaron Ball with Rio's Rainbow.

The story of Aaron Ball's 12-year-old stepdaughter Rio Allred, who took her own life over two years ago because of relentless bullying at school, serves as a harsh reminder of unchecked bullying and raises questions over ambiguous child safety laws.

"If you have an issue with your school district and you call DCS or IDOE specifically related to child safety, they point you back to your district," explains Rachel Van Alstine with the Parent Coalition for Child Safety and Wellness. "There's no recourse at all, which means there's no checks and balances."

Rachel Van Alstine says schools who see the brunt of this issue don't have the resources to handle unsafe behavior.

"If you talk to these districts, these school districts behind closed doors, they will tell you they're not equipped to handle these levels of behaviors. They're educators, they're not psychiatrists," says Van Alstine.

That's why Ball and Van Alstine are two of the frontline voices advocating for a Child State of Emergency, asking lawmakers to commit to prioritizing child safety legislation, identify and address policy gaps, and fund needed resources to protect children in schools.

"Kids cannot learn if they're worried about what's going to happen in the hallway, what's going to happen in the bathroom, what's going to happen at lunch, what's going to happen on the bus," Ball says. "Learning at that point becomes secondary."

They say this change would simply save children's lives.

"It's going to require all of us to get really vulnerable and have some very difficult conversations about the truth of our children to actually change the culture that's been bred and bled here for so long," Van Alstine says.

Here is the link to their Change.org petition.

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