Former FBI agent discusses security with local districts
When it comes to school security's response to the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., former FBI agent Bob Mitchell had a few words of caution.
“Don't be reactive and jump at the first thing you can grab off the shelf,” he said. “Take the time to assess whether what you're looking at is a good fit for your district and your school.”
Mitchell, along with Rick Murphy from the Pennsylvania State Police, gave a presentation to school security officials from Penn Hills, Gateway, Plum, Montour, New Wilmington and Ellwood City school districts Friday at Linton Middle School.
“We've been going all over the country lately, talking to districts about what they need to do,” Murphy said. The pair also performs security analysis for school districts and consults for OSA Global Inc., the company that provides security in the Penn Hills School District.
Mitchell said the biggest problem he encounters in looking at school district security is a lack of communication.
“What do you do when parents are calling, worried sick about their kids?” he asked. “If you're evacuating the school, who's in charge of special-needs students? Who's helping students who have medical problems? You need to tailor your procedures to your individual buildings.”
Mitchell also emphasized communication with the local police department.
“They have a stake in the community, they live here and their job is to keep it safe,” he said. “Take photos of your school: the roof, the outside, some sort of visual representation. Put it on a thumb drive and give it to your police chief and fire chief.”
Mitchell did not get into the specifics of the security response to the Newtown shooting, but instead focused on the shape of school security moving forward.
He said he was “100 percent against” arming school officials and staff, for the simple reason that they have not undergone training for an active shooting scenario.
“Shooting at a paper target is not the same as shooting at someone who's shooting back at you,” he said. “It's not difficult to teach someone how to shoot; it's very difficult to teach someone when to shoot, and to deal with what happens afterward.”
If a school district wanted to have armed security, Mitchell said the best place for them to be is outside the school, easily visible and serving as a deterrent before a potential criminal even enters a school building.
“You want to reduce the opportunity for crime,” Mitchell said. “You're not going to modify a person's attitude, but you can modify their behavior.”
While in the past, security measures such as metal detectors were often seen as reflecting negatively on a school district, Murphy said they're simply a fact of life now.
“Those people in (Newtown), I'm sure the last thing they ever expected at a suburban school like that was to have something like the shooting take place,” he said. “But it's the reality of today. Now, when you design your new school, you design your security specs.”
In addition to the seminar with Mitchell and Murphy, school board officials announced last week that district security staff would hold a training session at the recently closed senior high school in conjunction with members of the Allegheny County SWAT team.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.