Security lacking, parent tells North Allegheny school board

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As a North Allegheny parent and someone who works in security, Meghan King said she has seen the need for the school district to beef up its security.

"I have had numerous parents call me that know I am in the security industry and asked me to speak," Mrs. King told board members Jan. 16. "I will not indicate any of the vulnerabilities that I have seen, but I do have a list of them if anybody is interested."

A letter about security by superintendent Raymond Gualtieri, which was posted on the school website after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, was "well-intentioned," Mrs. King said, but "gave the impression that North Allegheny has this under control. Nobody has this under control."

Mrs. King, who has children in middle and high school, said the district needs to be more "proactive" in protecting students.

"Crisis planning is a very important piece, but I would like to see more communication about what we are doing to protect, detect, deter and delay people from harming our children," she said. "Thirty seconds count. We saw that at Sandy Hook. An assault weapon can discharge one round per second."

Mrs. King made three points to board members, the first one being improved communication with parents. She also suggested that the district hire a full-time director of security.

"We need somebody who eats, breathes and lives security every minute of every day," she said. "Our parents want this. Believe me, I've asked."

She said that other large school districts have a full-time security director, either on staff or by contracted service.

Her third point was that the district needs to keep security in mind when upgrading facilities.

Even though the campuses have an "open environmental design," there are things that can be done to beef up security while maintaining the open spaces.

She cited a video surveillance system used in the Fox Chapel Area School District. Visitors must pick up a phone outside the school to contact the office to let them into the school, and all schools have video surveillance of their doors.

"Why them and not us," she asked. "We no longer live in that world where we can hope for the best. If we think it can't happen here, we would be sadly mistaken."

Mr. Gualtieri said after the meeting that he has been meeting with the executive council and all principals to evaluate each building's security. This week, they will meet with the police chiefs of each municipality in the district to get their input, then he will make recommendations to the school board.

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Sandy Trozzo, freelance writer:


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