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Penn Hills

Teen breaches security at Penn Hills High School; student suspended for letting her in

Dillon Carr
| Thursday, Feb. 22, 2018, 5:00 p.m.
Penn Hills High School
Penn Hills High School

A 16-year-old former student was let into Penn Hills High School and remained in the building for 45 minutes Wednesday before being discovered, district officials said.

The student who breached security could face criminal charges for the unauthorized entry, school officials said. The incident is being investigated by Penn Hills police, which did not return calls for comment Thursday.

The student who let the girl in the building has been suspended, district spokeswoman Teresita Kolenchak said.

The district emailed a letter to parents saying the former student did not make any threats or damage property once inside the school.

Two similar incidents have been reported this school year, Superintendent Nancy Hines said. She visited the high school Thursday morning to address students about the importance of keeping the school secure.

“There are layers of security in place. None of that works when someone compromises that,” Hines said. “Her presence compromised everyone's security. She should have gone through the front entrance.”

All doors at the high school are locked from the outside. Visitors are supposed to be buzzed in by staff at the school's main entry, then go through a metal detector, have their bags checked and their identification scanned into a visitor log, according to security protocol posted on the district's website.

School districts around the region have been dealing with rumors and threats since 17 people were killed and several others injured in a shooting at a Florida high school. At least 12 schools in the Greater Pittsburgh area have reported and investigated threats to students or teachers in the week following the shooting in Florida. Even in the absence of a threat, many others have stepped up police presence in school buildings and tightened security procedures.

Penn Hills school board President Erin Vecchio, who leads the district's safety committee, said more needs to be done to make sure unauthorized visitors don't get into school buildings.

“We need to change the fact that anybody can let people in the school,” she said.

Hines said she is open to cautiously discussing changes to make the buildings more secure. She said the topic will likely be discussed at the next buildings and grounds committee meeting March 19.

“I'm not saying we have a flawless system, but I also don't want to go right to changing things before we evaluate what we do have and go from there,” Hines said.

Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-871-2325, dcarr@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dillonswriting.

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