Last evening, Superintendent Dr. William Miller updated the school board on the progress of the district’s response to the recent metal detector use Tuesday through Friday, November 27-30, with the assistance of the state police.
Miller reiterated to the board that no weapons were found and that “the student body has been very cooperative and should be applauded for the positive manner in which the metal detectors have been accepted.”
The TASD recently borrowed three stand-alone metal detectors from Altoona Area High School and purchased eight hand-held metal detector wands in the midst of rumored threats to the students in the middle and high school. The board last night approved a request to seek bids for four stand-alone metal detectors of its own, awarding purchase to the lowest bidder, unless state contracted. It is estimated the stand-alone detectors could cost around $4,000 a piece.
Miller stated that the scanning process has gone smoothly with very few minutes of instructional time lost during the school day.
“Administration has met with student groups for their input and suggestions,” said Miller. “The students unanimously agreed that, given the circumstances, the metal detectors were appropriate.”
The school district has now decided that district personnel will be conducting random searches at entrances to the schools and other check points throughout the schools, instead of the recent method of searching all the students. Third shift custodians will place the metal detectors at specified areas for use the following day.
Board member Peter Dutrow feels the school district has handed this situation “excellently.” In his opinion, he would like to see the people responsible for the rumored threats at Tyrone to be identified and prosecuted, just as the students at Philipsburg-Osceola and State College Area High Schools.
“We had a situation and we had students with concerns, and our job as a board and administration is to protect the kids – the administration did what was necessary,” said Dutrow.
He added, “The only negative comment I received was from a student who had concerns about the cell phone issue. We have phones in every room, all the teachers probably have cell phones, and our main concern is we don’t want to create panic, and panic is being avoided.”
As for the cell phone issue, administration has recommended enforcing the existing board policy on cell phones rather than requiring them to be kept in lockers during the school day, or banned from the school premises altogether.
That current policy states that cell phones should be turned off during instructional and class time, during passing times between classes, and at any other time where use of the devise would cause a disruption of school activities. All cell phones that can take photographs or record audio or video should not be used for such purposes while on district property or while a student is engaged in school sponsored activities, unless expressly authorized in advance by the building principal or designee.
Administration will also be directing staff to monitor and correct any improper behavior that may occur in restrooms and hallways between classes and before and after school.
“We feel comfortable enforcing this policy,” said Miller. “It has not been enforced enough.”
He added, “Before changing policies and taking extreme measures, which we feel are not necessary, we will continue to keep enforcing these policies and look for improvements. If we don’t make this commitment, we’re not doing enough to protect our students.”
Miller also stated that in the event of another lock down, no one will leave or enter the schools and the lock down will be throughout the district – from elementary to the high school.
“We will continue to inform parents of lock downs after they occur,” said Miller. “Communication will be sent via the district’s website.”
The district’s Technology Coordinator Glen Drager is in the process of establishing list servers for families who decide to receive information through their emails, whether the announcement pertains to a current situation or any other item of interest from the schools.
The school, with the help of private consultant Colleen Heim, state police and other emergency personnel, will continue to review and revise, as needed, the Emergency Procedures Guide Flip Charts that were originally approved in 2001.
Some parents have recently voiced concern about the school district and its handling of the lock down and security procedures, and Miller said the district is interested in meeting with parents at an appropriate time, hopefully sometime in January. Parents can find more information on the district’s website.
One parent of a third and ninth grader in the district, Deborah Briggs, ventured out into the wintry weather last night to commend the board, school district and staff on its recent response to the rumored threats.
“I thought the situation recently was handled very, very well, and they had a very quick response to what needed to be done,” said Briggs. “I’m just glad to see you’re going to stick with current policies on cell phones because I do think that’s going to be a hot issue if it needs to come up.”
The administration thanked the students for their cooperation, along with the staff, community and state police for their support.