Board talks district safety

The Globe - - FRONT PAGE - By Jar­reau Free­man

Al­most a month af­ter a mass shoot­ing un­folded at Sandy Hook Ele­men­tary 6FhRRO Ln 1HwWRwn, CRnn., that killed 26 chil­dren and teach­ers, the Abing­ton School District has been ac­tively work­ing with the Abing­ton Town­ship Po­lice De­part­ment to re­vise and strengthen its school safety plan.

At the Jan. 8 school board meet­ing Abing­ton Deputy Chief John Livin­good pre­sented to the board ways the school district and the po­lice de­part­ment are col­lab­o­rat­ing to tighten se­cu­rity and keep schools safe.

“We have devel­oped, what we have termed, a three­p­hase process, as the way we are ap­proach­ing [school safety],” Livin­good said.

Phase I of the Safe Schools Ini­tia­tive, which will oc­cur through­out the month of Jan­uary, will call for site vis­its and walk-throughs of each school in the district by po­lice. Dur­ing the site vis­its WhH RI­fiFHrV wLOO EH HYDOuDWing how eas­ily as­sess­able the build­ings are, re­view­ing plans and dis­cussing changes and up­grades, he said.

“We see this as a peo­ple process,” Livin­good said. “It is the peo­ple who are go­ing to make a dif­fer­ence if some­thing does hap­pen. If we are faced with one of th­ese tragic events like in Con­necti­cut it is go­ing to be the staff, teach­ers and stu­dents who are go­ing to have WR PDkH GLI­fiFuOW GHFLVLRnV and re­spond.”

Thus, Livin­good said that Phase II will be to train of­fiFHrV hRw WR rHVSRnG WR DnG in­ter­act with the teach­ers, as well as train­ing teach­ers and staff how to act to pro­tect them­selves and stu­dents in an emer­gency.

“We are not only go­ing to de­velop th­ese plans, but we are go­ing to walk through them with ev­ery­one at least on a table­top ba­sis,” he said.

Phase II will be­gin in Fe­bru­ary and con­tinue through the end of the school year, Livin­good said.

In or­der to main­tain school safety in the fu­ture, Livin­good said that Phase III will be an an­nual re­view of the school safety pro­ce­dures.

“We don’t see this as a one and done, quick-fix process, but some­thing that will have to be main­tained in the years to come,” he said. “In or­der to do that, we will need to con­tinue the train­ing, eval­u­ate the train­ing pro­cesses based on tragedies that are prob­a­bly go­ing to oc­cur and the lessons we learn from each of those. Also, there will be new staff, teach­ers and of­fi­cers who all will have to be in­doc­tri­nated into what we are do­ing here.”

As the school district and po­lice de­part­ment work to im­ple­ment th­ese plans, Su­per­in­ten­dent Amy Sichel said that the best thing for par­ents to do dur­ing this time is co­op­er­ate with what’s be­ing done.

“More par­ents have called us in the last cou­ple of weeks, since the New­town, Conn., in­ci­dent, ask­ing if we have a Safe Schools plan … and ask­ing if they can see it and the an­swer is ‘no,’” Sichel said. “The only thing we will re­lease is a ta­ble of con­tents … How­ever, we are not go­ing to re­lease our plans, [be­cause] there are things the school needs to ini­ti­ate with the Abing­ton Po­lice De­part­ment and there are some very sen­si­tive doc­u­ments in those man­u­als.”

In ad­di­tion to par­ents, the best way stu­dents can help with the safety process is to in­form adults when they see or hear any­thing sus­pi­cious, said As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent Leigh Al­ta­donna.

“Noth­ing can be bet­ter than if a stu­dent, see­ing some­thing on Face­book or is aware of ru­mors among class­mates, brings it to a re­spon­si­ble adult,” he said. “That is prob­a­bly one of the most im­por­tant ways for us to be proac­tive … be­fore it be­comes a sit­u­a­tion.”

In other busi­ness, school district Di­rec­tor of Pupil Ser­vices Judy Bomze pre­sented to the board re­vi­sions in the stu­dent reg­is­tra­tion pro­ce­dures to en­sure that all Abing­ton stu­dents are le­git­i­mate res­i­dents in the district.

Dur­ing en­roll­ment, par­ents and guardians will have to pro­vide doc­u­men­ta­tion of res­i­dency, in ad­di­tion to their child’s im­mu­niza­tion records, proof of the child’s age, dis­ci­plinary records and home lan­guage sur­vey. The doc­u­men­ta­tion of res­i­dency will need to in­clude forms such as a home own­er­ship deed, a cur­rent lease agree­ment, set­tle­ment pa­pers and a prop­erty tax re­ceipt. Care­givers will have to sign a State­ment of District Res­i­dency dur­ing en­roll­ment, she said.

Bomze ex­plained that the district will ver­ify res­i­dency through in­ter­views and in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and care­givers who own homes will be ver­i­fied through prop­erty tax records. Res­i­dency doc­u­men­ta­tion will be re­viewed an­nu­ally.

School board Pres­i­dent Ray­mond McGarry rec­om­mended that at the be­gin­ning of each school year a let­ter go to the home of each child in the school district to ver­ify if his or her res­i­dency changed and, if it has changed, to pro­vide the new ad­dress. This will help ward against in­di­vid­u­als who own prop­erty in the district, but their fam­i­lies don’t live in the district.

“Just so peo­ple know, this is not just an­other bu­reau­cratic pro­ce­dure,” said board mem­ber Barry Stupine. “I am told that we ask 100 stu­dents a year to leave [the schools] be­cause they don’t live here. That’s theft of as­sets … we can ac­tu­ally go to the per­pe­tra­tors of this and ask them to pay tuition.”

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