Safety concerns have kept elections out of Butler County school buildings
By Rick Wills
Published: Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:55 p.m.
It has been years since Butler County election officials used a school as a polling place. Educators said they want it to stay that way because of the potential difficulty in moving hundreds of voters through heightened security measures designed to protect school children from violent crimes.
“It would really compromise security to have polling places at schools,” said Mike Strutt, superintendent of the Butler Area Schools, who has worked in the district for 24 years.
Deadly school shootings in Ohio and Connecticut have pushed school administrators to increase security at schools through the use of metal detectors, surveillance cameras and armed guards.
Strutt says he understands why school officials elsewhere in Western Pennsylvania want polling places relocated because of safety concerns.
In Allegheny County, the school districts of West Jefferson Hills, Bethel Park and Chartiers Valley asked the county's Board of Elections to move polling places out of school buildings. State election law gives county election boards final say on where to put them.
Butler County Elections Director Shari Brewer said the only polling place in Butler County located on school property is in the Moniteau School District administration building.
A decade ago, about five or six Butler County schools served as polling places.
“Columbine really was the start of getting security in schools,” said Regis Young, former elections director in Butler County, referring to the April 20, 1999, school shooting that left 15 dead, including the two students who carried out the massacre.
“Several schools approached me and asked me to find new polling locations,” Young said.
“Churches and municipal buildings are better locations,” he said. “People don't want to go through metal detectors and security just to vote.”
Young said, “When push comes to shove, if there's no other place — this happens in rural areas sometimes — a school doesn't really have a choice.”
School districts in Illinois, Indiana, New York and Virginia have asked lawmakers to consider removing polling places from schools.
Strutt says that Butler Area schools have some of the tightest security in Western Pennsylvania.
“We have metal detectors and retired state troopers at the entrance. We have been concerned about security for more than 15 years,” he said. “We are always considering how we can make security better. Voting in our schools would not work,” he said.
The county's largest district, Seneca Valley, has security in place that would make voting at schools nearly impossible, said Linda Andreassi, a district spokeswoman.
Everyone entering district schools has to be buzzed in. The check-in process then requires visitors to provide a driver's license to be checked by the Raptor System, a software program that checks people for any crimes against children.
“This would certainly present delays during the day if numerous people are coming in at one time,” Andreassi said.
Rick Wills is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7944 or at email@example.com.
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.
- 3 Butler officials questioned over trial procedures
- Several area colleges working together to educate at Cranberry campus
- Butler County holiday happenings
- Lighting of menorah in Cranberry meant to promote unity
- Post office returns to serve Harmony