Tyrone Area looks at school security issues

“Have we changed anything since two weeks ago?”
That is the question a concerned Tyrone Area parent, Regis Briggs, asked of the Tyrone Area School Board and school administrators last night.
Briggs wanted to know what the district had done regarding school security issues since the Lancaster County Amish school tragedy. The Oct. 2 incident cost five girls their lives when a man shot them to death before turning the gun on himself. Five other children were injured during the incident. Briggs said one of his children had expressed some concerns since the shooting.
Superintendent Dr. William N. Miller told Briggs the district had reviewed its security efforts since the tragedy and had plans to look at the issue even further.
Miller said the district had received a memorandum from the state’s secretary of education to follow through with certain emergency procedures and to check the district’s emergency plan. He said he and the principals sent out additional memorandums specific to the locking of doors in the district’s buildings. Miller said administrators plan to further review safety procedures during a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday.
He also noted the district has dozen of cameras installed throughout its buildings and two armed school police officers. Miller mentioned other security measures such as student ids and the pending use of key fobs for staff.
The key fobs will allow keyless entry into the buildings. Physical Plant Supervisor Tom Muir said the district has installed seven fob entry point device at the high school/middle school and three at the elementary building. Unlike the fobs used to unlock a car, the district’s fobs do not have any buttons, but will have to be pointed at the device installed on selected doors. The door will then open for the person attempting to enter the building. Muir said the system can be programmed to allow entry for as short or as long as desired. The system will also record entry and departure time.
The fobs will eliminate other staffers needing to open a door for someone wanting to enter. Muir said during the morning hours, doors had been open for about an hour before being locked for the day. The system will be operational upon the arrival of some software and training for staff.
Visitors have to use the monitored main entrance by the office, which has already been the practice in place in the district. Administrators monitor the main doors during the student entry and departure times. Visitors need to sign in at the office and are issued a visitor’s pass before entering other parts of the building.
Muir said the district will also tighten security on the district’s outdoor grounds. For example, use of the tennis courts by the general public is limited to after school hours.
Lee Stover, the board’s president, said “Our administration has been very proactive from the get-go on this to bring in school police. Once we had school police here, (we) had them trained (and gave) them weapons.”
Briggs also wondered what type of drills are in place for students regarding security issues. He was told staff and students practice various lockdown drills.
Dr. Miller also cited the district’s “aggressiveness” in dealing with students who cause problems at school as part of the district’s measures. The district’s efforts include the reporting of criminal incidents and the prosecution such incidents.
In addition to the Lancaster tragedy, there have been a number of other recent school violence incidents involving both children and adults as the perpetrators.
Just yesterday, a conference on school safety was held in Chevy Chase, MD. President Bush participated in the event. According to an Associated Press report, he urged the nation to help prevent deadly school shootings, saying adults should intervene when they notice children are in trouble.
“Hopefully, out of these tragedies will come the sense of communal obligation all throughout our country, for people to take an extra effort to comfort the lonely,” said Bush.
The AP report noted that President Bush seemed most struck by one of the points raised by experts: When students plot violence, they often brag about it in advance to other students. Safety specialists say schools must encourage students to speak up when they notice any ominous behavioral changes.
There were no new policies nor new money announced. The administration instead touted Web sites of existing resources. Panelists spent the day sharing examples of local programs.
The AP report said Democrats mocked the event as a photo opportunity with little substance. Democratic senators challenged Bush to reinstate funding that\’s been cut from school-safety programs.

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(Editor’s note: Information from an Associated Press report was used in this article.)