Safety plan for schools examined
Baldwin-Whitehall School District is tweaking safety plans for its five schools, though that won't include arming teachers, Superintendent Randal Lutz said.
One month after a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at a Connecticut school, Lutz updated the Baldwin-Whitehall School Board about safety procedures and plans to make them better.
“Right now, everyone is talking about it,” Lutz said. “Schools are an open, fluid place. How do we react without overreacting?”
Baldwin-Whitehall administrators began looking at safety and emergency procedures in July, when Lutz became superintendent, he said. Each school has a crisis response plan and administrators collaborate with Baldwin Borough and Whitehall police.
The district has a contract with Allied Security Group to place unarmed guards in each building and officials are evaluating that agreement to determine whether the district is getting the most for its money.
Lutz said he wants to further research the issue of arming guards in schools but is firmly against arming teachers.
“Teachers are educators,” he said. “People are so desperate for a solution, they'll try anything.”
Schools are a community resource with sometimes more than a dozen activities happening on any given day, Lutz said. The goal is to be proactive with safety without deterring people from attending school activities.
Lutz said he is thinking about bringing in an outside consultant to review the district's safety plans.
Todd Plunkett, a Baldwin Borough resident and assistant chief at Baldwin EMS, told the school board that he met with district officials in 2009 to discuss safety issues in the buildings and left without assurance that they would meet his concerns.
“I left that meeting unsatisfied,” Plunkett said. “I'm really sad that I was proven correct (about school shootings) ... The only thing I am glad about is that it wasn't here.”
Plunkett thinks the district needs to ensure better response from faculty and staff when they see a stranger in buildings. They should question strangers, he said.
“If you look like you belong and act like you belong, then I'm not going to be challenged,” Plunkett said.
Board member Larry Pantuso said he would like more drills in schools that would emphasize how to respond to incidents such as a school shooter.
“When you drill it, you find problems that you didn't know you had,” Pantuso said.
Board president Nancy Sciulli DiNardo said she appreciated Plunkett bringing his concerns to administrators and encouraged him to continue to do so.
“If you see things like that, you're obligated to speak up. Your opinion is valued,” Sciulli DiNardo said. “Students' safety is paramount.”
Laura Van Wert is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5814 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.