Leg­is­la­tors hold round­table dis­cus­sion on school safety

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Gin­ger Rae Dun­bar gdun­bar@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @GingerDun­bar on Ti­wt­ter

DOWNINGTOWN » What can we do to help?

That was the main ques­tion to gen­er­ate in­put dur­ing a round­table dis­cus­sion on Tues­day about school safety ef­forts fol­low­ing a num­ber of school shoot­ings, in­clud­ing the Park­land, Florida school shoot­ing in Fe­bru­ary that claimed the lives of 17 peo­ple and in­jured oth­ers. State Sens. John Raf­ferty, R-44, of Col­legeville, and Tom McGar­rigle, R-26, of Spring­field in Delaware County, hosted the Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Pol­icy Com­mit­tee, chaired by Sen. David G. Ar­gall, R-29 (Schuylkill/ Berks). In ad­di­tion, Rep. Becky Corbin, R-155, of East Brandy­wine, and Sen. An­drew Din­ni­man, D-19, of West White­land, at­tended the round­table held at the Downingtown ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing.

Downingtown schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Em­i­lie Lonardi and Coatesville schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Cathy Taschner agreed that per­son­nel are among the most im­por­tant fac­tors in keep­ing the stu­dents safe.

“Noth­ing sub­sti­tutes for per­son­nel,” Lonardi said, “whether they are safety per­son­nel or men­tal health per­son­nel.”

Lonardi added that there needs to be a “core sub­ject” in school where stu­dents learn about men­tal health and well­ness to help stu­dents have strong men­tal health, de­spite what hap­pens in life. Heather Carr, a school psy­chol­o­gist at Downingtown, noted that there needs to be sup­port in schools and pro­grams in which stu­dents are taught about so­cial in­ter­ac­tive skills and cop­ing skills.

Taschner echoed that ed­u­ca­tors need the time dur­ing the school day to talk to stu­dents about men­tal health to pre­vent in­ci­dents from oc­cur­ring. Carr asked if ed­u­ca­tors were pre­pared for lock-down sit­u­a­tions and Taschner noted that while school of­fi­cials have drills, na­tion­ally, teach­ers may be un­pre­pared.

“I don’t know if any­one is pre­pared for: lock the build­ing down. I don’t think any­body is and it’s changed the school ex­pe­ri­ence of chil­dren and staff,” Taschner said. “We pre­pare teach­ers to teach. We don’t pre­pare them to be se­cu­rity ex­perts. We don’t pre­pare them to be trained po­lice of­fi­cers or emer­gency per­son­nel. We do our best.”

Lionville Mid­dle School Prin­ci­pal Jonathan Ross said the short­age of teach­ers is an im­pend­ing cri­sis na­tion­wide which may be caused by the stress of test­ing and aca­demic achieve­ment, in ad­di­tion to the idea of keep­ing kids safe by fend­ing off in­trud­ers.

Up­per Uwch­lan Town­ship Po­lice De­part­ment Chief John De­Marco noted that one of the is­sues that pre­vents com­mu­ni­ca­tion is that his of­fi­cers can­not legally be in­formed of an in­ci­dent that oc­curred at the high school, in another town, in­volv­ing a stu­dent who lives in Up­per Uwch­lan be­cause of pri­vacy laws that pro­tect mi­nors. He said it goes both ways and school dis­trict of­fi­cials will not be in­formed of an in­ci­dent that oc­curred where the mi­nor re­sides.

“There should be some type of level that we can se­cure to pro­vide the school dis­trict that type of in­ter­ac­tion and say (for ex­am­ple) we re­sponded to the home three times over the week­end and they as­saulted some­one, but be­cause they are a ju­ve­nile, the law is very re­stric­tive,” De­Marco said. There’s some hope though. Ross no­ticed that stu­dents have in­formed adults and po­lice of threats that were posted on­line. He said that stu­dents de­serve credit for re­port­ing such in­ci­dents. Lionville stu­dents re­ported to po­lice a threat made against another stu­dent that was posted on so­cial me­dia last De­cem­ber and the Uwch­lan Po­lice De­part­ment han­dled the mat­ter.

“They stepped up and did the right thing,” Ross said.

As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent of Downingtown Robert Reed, Chief Se­cu­rity Of­fi­cer Tim Hub­bard and Downingtown school board Pres­i­dent Jane Ber­tone noted that the stu­dents have cre­ated a cul­ture where they feel com­fort­able re­port­ing mat­ters to school of­fi­cials and the School Re­source Of­fi­cer.

Shawn McGlinchey, vice pres­i­dent of risk man­age­ment of Krapf Bus Com­pa­nies, sug­gested in­clud­ing school bus drivers at some level be­cause they are among the first and last peo­ple to in­ter­act with stu­dents dur­ing the school day.

GIN­GER RAE DUN­BAR — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

State Sen. John Raf­ferty, R-44, speaks dur­ing the round­table dis­cus­sion on Tues­day about school safety ef­forts. Chief Se­cu­rity Of­fi­cer Tim Hub­bard, As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent of Downingtown Robert Reed and Sen. David G. Ar­gall, look on.

GIN­GER RAE DUN­BAR — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

State Sen. An­drew Din­ni­man speaks dur­ing the round­table dis­cus­sion on Tues­day about school safety ef­forts. Pic­tured from left to right are: Chief Se­cu­rity Of­fi­cer Tim Hub­bard, As­sis­tant Su­per­in­ten­dent of Downingtown Robert Reed, Din­ni­man and Sen. John Raf­ferty.

GIN­GER RAE DUN­BAR — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Up­per Uwch­lan Town­ship Po­lice De­part­ment Chief John De­Marco speaks dur­ing the round­table dis­cus­sion on Tues­day about school safety ef­forts. Coatesville schools Su­per­in­ten­dent Cathy Taschner looks on.

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