Moon Area schools review security

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In an era of school shootings such as those at Columbine, Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook, Moon Area has hired school safety expert Kenneth S. Trump to analyze procedures and policies related to safety, security and crisis preparedness.

The decision to hire National School Safety and Security Services to perform the security emergency preparedness and communication strategy review is a move being labeled as proactive, not reactive.

Moon Area is “ahead of the game,” but as with everything there is room for improvement, Mr. Trump said. “We would send our children to Moon Area, and we’re not just saying this.”

The district has a variety of security measures in place including requiring random lockdown drills, where doors are locked tight, windows are covered and lights are turned off. Students and teachers are to then remain still and quiet inside the locked rooms until an all clear message is sent.

Mr. Trump said his elementary-aged daughter refers to these drills as, “hide-and-go-seek in the dark.”

These types of drills are a best practice brought into use following the events of the 1999 Columbine massacre which resulted in 15 deaths and 21 being wounded. Mr. Trump suggests these drills be unannounced at any time including during lunch hours, so that teachers are able to think on their feet and not become accustomed to rote behavior.

As part of this review, Mr. Trump and members of his firm met Jan. 29 with approximately 45 Crescent and Moon residents who shared their perspectives and voice concerns.

“Do your principals, teachers and superintendent get it? They do,” Mr. Trump said.”There are some places we go and say, 'Uh-oh!' ”

When asked if the lockdown procedures worked at Sandy Hook Elementary the site of the December 2012 school shooting resulting in a total of 28 deaths, Mr. Trump said the rooms in lockdown at Sandy Hook did not fail, as none of the doors to rooms where shooting occurred were found to be forced open.

“School safety is a people issue, a mental health issue," he said.

Mr. Trump’s views on school security go beyond the knee-jerk reaction to focus only on the possibility of a massacre.

“You may get a knife or a gun, but not as often as someone thinks,” he said.

The very common issue of bullying or even weather-issues and natural disasters are all part of the “continuum of threats and continuum of responses” he feels should be included in a safety plan.

“Providing a safe and secure environment for teaching and learning is our top priority,” Superintendent Curt Baker said in a press release. “It is important that we incorporate best practices in the design of our buildings, in our day-to-day security procedures, and in our emergency response protocols.”

A 25-year veteran of K-12 school security, Mr. Trump has served as a secondary school officer and investigator, and later as founding supervisor of the Youth Gang Unit for Cleveland Public Schools. As head of the school gang unit, he dealt with gang and high-profile crime and violence prevention for 127 schools with more than 73,000 students.

During his firm’s analysis of Moon Area’s seven school buildings, Mr. Trump said he was impressed by the “consistently inconsistent” visits by Moon police officers to the facilities.

He asked those listening to his presentation to recall a time when people thought something was wrong if there was a police car in front of a school. “Now they are worried if there is not one there,” he said.

The possibility of trained school resource officers could be a good addition to safety in any district as he said he does not support arming teachers. He stressed that these types of officers were not put in place “as a cuff ‘em and stuff ‘em” to arrest students.

Any changes or updates to a school’s safety plans have to be within budget and sustainable, he said. If a district implements additional security cameras, but does not have the funds available to maintain them, what is the point?

“The truth is bad things happen to good people, in good places,” he said. “In reality we’d all like a 100 percent guarantee.”

The cost of the analysis is $36,000. A full report is expected by administrators in four to six weeks.


Sonja Reis, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.

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