Superintendent Message Regarding School Safety

  • In recent years, acts of violence in schools and other areas of the community have captured the attention of our country. The devastating losses associated with these events are difficult to comprehend. We know that anxiety and fear exist in our schools, our region, and the country.
    Message from Supt  
    We shared a series of procedures and actions through our communications last spring. There are a variety of initiatives implemented for next year. Our campuses will not be open to community members during the school day. For example, the high school track is closed to parents and community. When visiting our schools, the district will use the Raptor badging system. Visitors will need to provide a driver’s license that will be scanned to create a photo ID. This system also checks certain law enforcement databases. Secretaries will continue their efforts to create a positive, welcoming atmosphere while also staying consistent and firm with procedures.
     
    As a school district, we have been fortunate to partner with the Northern Regional Police Department for many years. Officers conduct building walkthroughs on a daily basis at all six of our schools, and police vehicles are often present during arrival and/or dismissal at our schools. Beginning in the fall of 2018, the presence of officers within the schools will increase as they take the opportunity to complete some of their paperwork - usually completed in their vehicles or at the police station - in office spaces within our schools. We view this as a win-win strategy for both the district and police.
     
    For many years, the district has employed a safety and security coordinator who oversees security measures at all schools. This person is currently a retired Drug Enforcement Agency officer and has been with the district for almost three years. We are currently recruiting for a second safety and security coordinator to increase security presence in the afternoon and evening. As outlined in Act 235 of The Pennsylvania Code, these safety and security coordinators may be armed at times during their daily workday when holding required certifications and licenses.
     
    A variety of technology-related improvements have also been made that include final installation of video cameras at all six schools and the stadium. We also have a software service that will assist in emergency communications in our schools. As part of the district’s capital funding plan, the visitor entrance and vestibule at both Hance and Wexford will be updated as a security precaution.
     
    An important and often overlooked aspect of safety planning relates to the student and staff learning. By raising the awareness and understanding of students, we can help reduce anxiety and develop confidence. Small everyday behaviors can help increase security. When students notice concerns with a friend or classmate, the confidence to identify a potential threat and report to trusted adults is critical. The TIPS Line (724-449-TIPS) is another method for sharing concerns. Importantly, students must understand that they cannot make certain statements. It is not appropriate to say “just kidding” after making a threatening comment. Consequences for inappropriate and/or threatening statements will exist at the school and possibly with the police. Finally, we will continue to conduct a series of drills to build confidence in the event of a threat.
     
    For several years, the district has partnered with Holy Family Institute to provide the opportunity for students and/or families to receive third-party mental health services. This program was first started at the high school and middle school. It expanded to Eden Hall last year and will be available at the primary schools in the fall. Holy Family Institute is a secular program. A confidential space is provided for these outside services within each school, but the Pine-Richland School District staff is not part of that process. The benefit of the partnership with Holy Family Institute is the availability of accessing supports - if desired and determined by the family - in a convenient manner.
     
    Please understand that some portions of our Emergency Operations Plan are confidential. This plan was developed in conjunction with the Northern Regional Police Department. Thank you again for your commitment to and support of the Pine-Richland School District.

    Sincerely,
    Brian Miller, Ed.D.