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Superintendent Talks Security Changes on Anniversary of Newtown Massacre

'Should we have armed security in any or all of the buildings?' asked Upper St. Clair School Director Harry Kunselman.

Upper St. Clair Superintendent Patrick O'Toole discussed security measures and changes in the school district on the one-month anniversary of the Newtown massacre.

"There are some really difficult decisions on what school environment we will have. Obviously, we want a safe environment," O'Toole told school directors on Monday night.

Currently the school district has two school police officers that "basically have the authority of municipal officers," according to O'Toole.

There are also two additional part-time security officers. They have been "working more full-time recently."

"We've had a bigger and expanded presence at the three elementary schools and two middle schools (than before)," O'Toole said.

Plans have sped up to bring Raptorware, a visitor management system, to the elementary and middle schools during the second semester. It's already installed at Upper St. Clair High School.

School Director Harry Kunselman said he would like to have the following questions discussed and answered in the near future:

  • Should we consider metal detectors?
  • Should we have armed security in any or all of the buildings?
  • Our buildings are used frequently by many different groups in the community. Are there any steps to add security then?

What would you like to see change in the Upper St. Clair School District in terms of security? Do you think there should be metal detectors and/or armed guards? Tell us in the comments at the end of this article.

"We obviously would prefer not to have our buildings to feel like a high-security prison ... but at the same time, we have to be prepared for the unexpected given the age in which we live," Kunselman said.

In the meantime, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) announced a federal effort to review programs to prevent another Newtown tragedy:

“For too long, mental illness has been a topic saved for the shadows, often going unmentioned ... I welcome the opportunity to lead the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee in a meaningful conversation on mental health as we examine mental health resources and programs across the federal spectrum. The subcommittee will begin an overview of these programs to determine the current state of mental health research and what role mental illness plays in these tragedies. We will seek out any and all expert perspectives to gain a better understanding and learn how we can do better.”

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Glenn Robinson January 15, 2013 at 02:05 PM
No reactive, emotional and expensive changes are necessary. First determine the actual probability of an incident. Then determine how much we want to spend to address it (if anything at all). Decide what if anything can be done with the budget. Personally, I don't see any need for change.
Becky Brindle January 15, 2013 at 03:12 PM
Playing devil's advocate here, but I'm sure the administrators and community of Sandy Hook Elementary thought there was a very low probability of an incident happening, don't you think?
Kelly Ehasz January 15, 2013 at 03:53 PM
I think typical building security is what's needed, not a bunch of armed guards who could have their guns stolen from them (or who could be mentally unstable themselves!). The doors of the buildings shouldn't be left unlocked; you should have to be buzzed in. The perimiter of each building should be monitored with security cameras (especially ground floor areas with lots of windows), and someone should be assigned to watch the live feeds that the cameras produce. The USC rec center is monitored in that way ... the live video feeds are on a television screen for front desk personnel to watch. As for metal detectors ... that's more of an issue for high school and maybe middle school to prevent a student from bringing weapons into the school ... personally, I think that would be over the top and send a message of distrust to students.
B January 15, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Metal detectors...really? I am sure a school shooter would stop in their tracks and say 'crap I can't get past those with my assau...oh wait, yes I can!'. All metal detectors are going to do is make the students feel more imprisoned (they already refer to the High School as 'the prison') and waste a LOT of money and resources.
Jim S January 15, 2013 at 07:07 PM
The kids need to feel safe and be safe by whatever means is necessary but figuring that out is the hard part. I'm in for a police officer in all the schools. Maybe the kids would learn some more respect for them and the officer could even occasionally have classroom discussions on safety. Just my opinion
BobE January 15, 2013 at 08:44 PM
I don't know if there really is any way to stop someone in that "mindset". If I remember correctly the Sandy Hook school had a "buzz in" system in place. I guess a police officer could shoot the individual but the police even seem to be targets at times. What would really be a deterrent? It may depend on the perpetrator.
Glenn Robinson January 16, 2013 at 01:42 AM
Sounds like a rational, cost effective approach.
Glenn Robinson January 16, 2013 at 01:45 AM
Yep, if someone is going to shoot up a place, first on the agenda is to shoot those who might shoot back. By putting armed guards anywhere only identifies the first target.
Maria Miller January 17, 2013 at 12:48 PM
The only problem that I have with the current school security in the district is at Fort Couch Middle School. The building was not designed correctly to protect the students. I brought this up at meetings before the building was reconstructed, but no one listened. The cafeteria where a large number of students gather everyday is the first area anyone trying to do harm would encounter. It is surrounded by glass and could easily be compromised. The office is up a flight of stairs and the entrance is left open during the day. It is the only school in the district where the entrance does not lead directly into the office. It should have been designed differently.

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