Safety Initiatives in High Schools

Bradley Hare, Centurion Staff

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Keanon Lowe, a football coach from Parkrose High School in Portland, Oregon, managed to do the impossible when he stopped a potential school shooting with a hug.
Angel Granados-Diaz brought a gun to Parkrose High School. Lowe grabbed the weapon away from Granados-Diaz and let another teacher take it to a safe location. Before grabbing the weapon Lowe hugged Granados-Diaz and let him know he cared for him. Granados-Diaz suffered from a mental health illness, and Lowe’s reaffirmation of his care for him helped cool the incident.
Not all potential shooting end this positively. According to Education Week, 24 school shootings happened in 2018 that resulted in 114 people either injured or killed.
In response to the growing problem schools throughout Bucks County are taking approaches to implement safety in the classroom with new programs.
Pennsbury High School started a new initiative called “Safe to Say Something (S2SS).” The program is a anonymous tipping service for people to submit help to the Pennsylvania state law enforcement about those that may be a danger to themselves or to others.
“The S2SS program trains students and school staff members to treat every warning sign seriously and to act quickly to get help,” said Superintendent of the Pennsbury school board, William Gretzula.
Gretzula added that students can always tell a trustworthy adult figure warning signs they see, but now they can be reported by phone, mobile app, or website to the Pennsylvania S2SS Crisis Center.
S2SS is based on a three-step system. The three steps are as follows: An anonymous tip is sent in, the call is received by a 24/7 crisis center and the school officials and law enforcement intervene and help when needed.
“In the wake of the tragedy in Parkland, the Pennsylvania legislature determined that steps were necessary to increase school safety in Pennsylvania,” said Elizabeth Aldridge, Director of Student Services for the Neshaminy school district.
Aldridge views the program as largely positive. She said it provided a readily accessible method to report concerns of any kind, including concerns about a friend, about school safety, and about dangerous behavior in school, like vaping and selling drugs.
“There are some functionality issues,” Aldridge admitted. “I cannot do a search of the system if I am looking for one type of tip or one school.”
The biggest hurdle in Aldridge’s eyes for the program is that it requires school personnel to be on call to respond to tips at every single possible second.
“I have gotten calls for tips while boarding an airplane, while at my nephew’s birthday party, while on vacation, and many other interesting places,” Aldridge said. Despite this pressure, she still supports this program.
The majority of tips the schools received were about students who are already are the staff’S radar. There were a few instances where tips led the faculty to find students that were depressed or resorting to self-harm.
“Because we have such great partnerships with the police departments of Lower Makefield Township, Falls Twp, Yardley Borough, and Tullytown Borough, managing the tips has gone incredibly well in terms of our collaboration with police,” Aldridge said.
This, alongside other safety procedures, has resulted in an increase of security, helping to prevent disasters.
“I feel safe at my school,” said David Calderbank, a teacher in Neshaminy school district. “All doors are shut and locked and we have one officer and three security guards on campus during the school day.”
Neshaminy High School also practices safety drills, including fire drills, evacuating the football stadium, and practicing against threats from the inside and outside of the school.
Despite all of this, Calderbank wished the school could have multiple exits for extra safety. He also believes that while the officers should be the only ones using guns, teachers should still know how to use them.
Thanks to a partnership with the Sandy Hook Promise, a national nonprofit group that works to improve school safety, the S2SS program was able to finally take off.
Conwell Egan Catholic High School (CEC), located in Fairless Hills is taking a different approach to the school safety. They plan to deal with the problem head on with a Anti-Bullying Policy.
Assistant Principal of Student Life, Chris Dileonardo, said, “We believe all individuals at CEC have the right to learn and work without intimidation, humiliation or harassment.” He added that bullying is unacceptable and everyone has a role in stopping it.
The anti-bullying policy at CEC prohibits harassment, hazing and other demeaning behaviors.
“The administration shall answer questions about this policy, investigate complaints and take appropriate corrective action,” Dileonardo explained. He also encouraged those that felt victimized to report it.
The policy promised that the school will investigate all allegations as privately as possible and will act when needed.
In between all of these procedures and programs, safety has only been improving throughout Bucks County high schools. The security of the future generation is being taken seriously by the staff of schools throughout the county.