Echoes of Park­land shoot­ing rip­ple through area schools

The Phoenix - - FRONT PAGE - By Evan Brandt [email protected]­tu­ry­media. com @PottstownNews on Twit­ter

It was Valen­tine’s Day when 19-year-old Niko­las Cruz walked into Marjorie Stone­man Dou­glas High School in Park­land, Florida and killed 17 stu­dents and staff, and in­jured 17 more.

It was the dead­li­est school shoot­ing in U.S. his­tory and it spurred changes in lo­cal schools that con­tinue to evolve.

One month later, stu­dents lo­cally and across the coun­try re­sponded by par­tic­i­pat­ing in na­tion­wide “walk-outs” to protest gun vi­o­lence, to memo­ri­al­ize the Park­land stu­dents and to high­light that they feel un­safe in school.

In Spring-Ford, seven days af­ter the shoot­ing, the school board dis­cussed the pos­si­bil­ity of en­sur­ing there are armed per­son­nel in each of its 11 build­ings.

Later in the year, the board hired a new head of se­cu­rity.

In Boy­er­town, a huge crowd ma­te­ri­al­ized in the high school au­di­to­rium in the wake of a po­ten­tial shoot­ing threat made against a ninth grade as­sem­bly in May, that many said the dis­trict han­dled poorly in terms of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

In sub­se­quent months, the board has spent ad­di­tional money to step up its se­cu­rity at all its build­ings, many of the mea­sures no longer pub­lic be­cause of a new law that al­lows se­cu­rity mea­sures to be the sub­ject of “ex­ec­u­tive ses­sions,” closed to the pub­lic.

And ear­lier this month, the Boy­er­town School Board voted unan­i­mously to al­low the school dis­trict po­lice of­fi­cer to be armed and to use deadly force if nec­es­sary.

The state leg­is­la­ture en­acted Act 44, which re­struc­tures and im­proves cur­rent school safety fund­ing pro­grams to pro­vide in­creased sup­port for po­lice, school re­source of­fi­cers and school psy­chol­o­gists. It also es­tab­lishes a new grant pro­gram to help pre­vent, re­duce and ad­dress school and com­mu­nity vi­o­lence.

In Pottstown and Potts­grove school dis­tricts, “ac­tive shooter drills” have be­come the new nor­mal, with gun-tot­ing po­lice prac­tic­ing the pur­suit of armed in­trud­ers and chil­dren that learn­ing leav­ing their schools due to the threat of an armed en­emy is no dif­fer­ent than a fire drill.

Each Pottstown school build­ing now has three such drills a year.

In fact ten­sions are so high now that two Potts­grove High School se­niors were charged with dis­or­derly con­duct in May af­ter a prank dur­ing which a chicken was re­leased into the halls caused a school lock-down be­cause they were wear­ing hoods to hide their iden­tity.

This fall, Owen J. Roberts High School hosted a pro­gram with Chester County Dis­trict At­tor­ney Paul Ho­gan about how school shoot­ers can be iden­ti­fied and caught.

School shoot­ers are most of­ten males, be­tween the ages of 15 to 19, or 35 to 44, said Ho­gan.

Teen shoot­ers usu­ally have a grudge against a school and older men who be­come school shoot­ers face pres­sures from work, fam­ily failed mar­riages, know they will not be a ma­jor league pitcher for the Phillies.

An “ac­tive shooter,” is some­one who “wants to run the num­bers up, get as high a body count as they pos­si­bly can,” Down­ing­town De­tec­tive Andy Traut­mann told the OJR par­ents.

“A tar­geted shooter has a tar­get in mind. Al­though they can turn into ac­tive shoot­ers and they will shoot some­one whop gets in their way,” he said.

“Frankly,” said Lower Potts­grove Po­lice Chief Michael Foltz, “its more likely sta­tis­ti­cally that we’ll have an ac­tive shooter drill in a school than a fire. I’ve been a po­lice of­fi­cer for al­most 30 years and when I started no one would have ever thought some­thing like this could hap­pen,” said Foltz.

“Now I worry about it ev­ery day.”

MAR­IAN DEN­NIS – DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

About 700 stu­dents walked out of Potts­grove High School Wed­nes­day as they par­tic­i­pated in a na­tion­wide move­ment called Na­tional Walk­out Day. The stu­dents walked along School Lane hold­ing signs about gun vi­o­lence and hon­ored the vic­tims of the Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas shoot­ing.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF THE MONT­GOMERY COUNTY DE­PART­MENT OF PUB­LIC SAFETY

Po­lice of­fi­cers from the Lower, West and Up­per Potts­grove po­lice de­part­ments were at Potts­grove School Dis­trict Mon­day par­tic­i­pat­ing in an ac­tive shooter ex­er­cise.

PHO­TOS COUR­TESY OF MONT­GOMERY COUNTY DE­PART­MENT OF PUB­LIC SAFETY

Lower Potts­grove Po­lice carry a dummy rep­re­sent­ing a shoot­ing vic­tim to safety dur­ing an ac­tive shooter drill held June 11 at Potts­grove High School.

DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA FILE PHOTO

Par­ents and stu­dents lined up to speak at a town hall meet­ing in June called in the wake of a threat at Boy­er­town High School on Memo­rial Day week­end.

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