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Leechburg Area board OKs metal detector purchase

Brian C. Rittmeyer
| Wednesday, May 11, 2016, 11:10 p.m.

The Leechburg Area School District will install metal detectors in response to a student being found in school carrying a loaded handgun.

The school board Wednesday approved the roughly $7,500 purchase, according to Acting Superintendent Frank Prazenica.

On April 28, a 13-year-old eighth-grader was found carrying a loaded .45-caliber handgun.

Following that incident, Prazenica said the district contacted the state and was able to get money through the Safe Schools program to cover the roughly $7,300 cost of the two walk-through metal detectors and two metal detection wands from Markl Supply Co.

A representative of the Safe Schools office was not available for comment Wednesday, a Department of Education spokeswoman said.

The district had no policy in effect to use metal detectors to scan students as they came into school before the April 28 incident. Afterward, the district borrowed metal-detecting wands from Leechburg police.

Prazenica said the state money will cover the full cost of the equipment except for the $200 shipping cost.

The detectors are expected to be in place before the end of the school year. Prazenica said the idea is to begin using them now to help with a “smoother transition” in the fall.

Prazenica said officials were considering locations to place the detectors. He said they would be geared more toward checking students than staff.

Police had expressed concern about how the district handled the incident, including the fact that the student was not immediately restrained and disarmed, and that police were not immediately contacted and told that there was an armed student in the school.

An emotional mom

Danielle Reinke, a former school director, quickly became emotional as she told the school board about how her daughter sat in classrooms “with a child with a loaded gun ready to be fired at any moment.

“The outcome we had was not due to anything done by the school. It was this outcome by pure luck,” Reinke said. “Luck is not good enough when lives are at stake. Having to think how close I was to losing a child is not good enough. Having to think of what could have been and how many others would have been lost is not good enough.”

Reinke urged district officials to take advantage of the second chance they've been given.

“This will happen again. It's a matter of when,” she said. “Our public needs reassurance from all of you here tonight that how the district handled this will not happen again, that the correct people will be trained, and that the correct policies are in place.”

Safety committee coming

District officials and the school board met privately last week with representatives of the police departments serving the school district. They agreed to work together to update the district's policies and procedures.

At its voting meeting next Wednesday, the school board is expected to create a school safety committee that would do that work, Smith said.

Board members anticipated to be appointed to the committee are Angelique Richards, Anthony Shea and Kathy Vargo.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-226-4701 or at brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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