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House Committee Continues Study of School Security and Safety, Day Reports
6/7/2013
Rep. Gary Day (R-Berks/Lehigh) chaired a public hearing of the House Select Committee on School Safety and Security Thursday at Slippery Rock University to learn more about student and school safety on campus of higher education. Pictured at his left is Rep. Cherelle Parker (D-Philadelphia), vice chairman of the committee.
SLIPPERY ROCK
– The House Select Committee on School Safety and Security continued its examination this week on best practices and recommendations to keep students, faculty, employees and others safe while balancing a quality environment for learning, said Rep. Gary Day (R-Lehigh/Berks), chairman of the select committee.

“Our charge with this committee is to investigate safety and security of students, employees, teachers, administrations and others, and learn about best practices to keep our schools safe,” Day said. “We’ve learned a lot in our first two hearings, and expect to hear other suggestions and recommendations for best practices or legislation from this panel of experts as well.”

In addition to presentations addressing the need for additional mental health services and training and communication to respond to active shooter situations, this week’s hearing, held at the Robert M. Smith Student Center at Slippery Rock University in Butler County, also focused on safety and security issues for higher education and the unique setting of an open campus environment 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 365 days a year.

Testifiers echoed similar themes from the committee’s earlier two hearings in Harrisburg and Aston, Delaware County – education and training, communication, collaboration among school staff and with local law enforcement, allocation of resources, and flexibility to adjust best practices and recommendations to each individual school setting.

In addition to the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut in December, testifiers pointed to the tornado that struck Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., in May as another instance of student safety.

However, those presenters who discussed active shooter situations and the preparation and planning for those types of emergencies stressed that schools are, by far, one of the safest places for children. That is integral in their ability to learn and grow.

Both educators and law enforcement personnel who offered insight into the issue categorized the issue two-fold: physical/building security and student safety. While schools need flexibility depending on their individual circumstances, most agreed that there should be some basic minimum standards, especially concerning building safety, such as ensuring all doors to the school are locked on the outside. School officials also stressed the need to be able to have security conversations with their local boards of education in special executive session, thereby preventing the precise security protocols from being revealed publicly.

“I’d like to thank all of our testifiers for their valuable insight into the issue of school safety and security,” Day said. “It is important that we hear from a variety of different stakeholders – experts in education, law enforcement, mental health and others – so that we can craft the best possible recommendations with the overall goal of keeping our kids safe.”

Among those offering testimony Thursday were: Dr. Wayde Killmeyer, superintendent of Clairton City School District and representing the Allegheny Intermediate Unit; Amy Smith, president, National Association of School Psychologists; Dr. James J. Tracey, superintendent, Girard School District and governing board member, PA Association of School Administrators; Joseph M. Zupancic, member, Canon-McMillan School Board and PA School Boards Association; Sean McAleer, director of education, Pennsylvania Catholic Conference; Alison Kiss, executive director, The Clery Center for Security on Campus; Dr. Peter Garland, acting chancellor, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education; Michael Simmons, chief of police, Slippery Rock University; and Dr. Timothy Runge, assistant professor and co-principal investigator for PA School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

The committee was formed as a result of the unanimous passage of House Resolution 53 earlier this year. A fourth and final hearing is expected to be scheduled in Harrisburg for July.

Representative Gary Day
187th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact:  Jennifer Keaton
717.705.2094
jkeaton@pahousegop.com
RepGaryDay.com / Facebook.com/RepGaryDay
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