JOHNSTOWN, Pennsylvania – Following the arrest of two teenagers who officials said were planning a shooting at Westmont Hilltop Junior-Senior High School, area school district officials took the opportunity to examine their own security plans.
That was before a national threat spread to the TikTok app prompting additional security measures on Friday.
“With respect to recent events, we have reviewed our security protocols with local police and staff,” said Ferndale area superintendent Jeffrey Boyer.
Administrators held a meeting with Ferndale and West Hills Police following the Nov. 30 school shooting in Oxford Township, Michigan.
“The meeting went very well and it was nice to collaborate with both departments,” said Boyer. “The two departments plan to be more present in our two buildings by making daily visits, which has already started.”
Ferndale previously had a School Resources Officer, or SRO for short, but the position remains open because the person who held the position has resigned. Since then, there has been a shortage of candidates, Boyer said.
Going forward, the district will hold more exercises with “Cambria County multi-jurisdictional agencies and organizations,” he said.
Travis Robison, Principal of Ferndale High School, worked with a group of students to train them in protocols related to the ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate) security program.
“Concern and vigilance”
Ferndale is not alone.
Richland school leaders reviewed elements of their district’s safety plan. Forest Hills will be hosting random drills in the coming weeks in conjunction with local law enforcement. Conemaugh Valley officials have re-examined their procedures and the Windber area SRO has become more involved in a recent meeting with students in that district.
“We have incorporated our SRO into these discussions with our students to put safety at the forefront of their minds,” said Windber Director of Education Glenn Gaye.
Student rallies were already scheduled, but when authorities announced that Logan J. Pringle and Westmont Hilltop student Preston R. Hinebaugh were allegedly planning a shootout, the direction of the rallies was changed.
For those in the Conemaugh Township area, where Pringle is a student, there is an “increased degree of worry and alertness.”
“Safety is always a topic of discussion in one way or another and is re-evaluated based on any event, be it at the local or national level,” said James Foster, principal of Conemaugh Township High School. Area. “Situations, as such, require us to regularly review our operations, procedures and policies. “
Foster added that, out of the local fear, staff have been tasked with discussing specific safety topics and procedures with students and reminded them of the Safe2Say hotline and the district “Tribeline” for reporting situations.
“Both ways provide immediate contact with adults affiliated with the school to help with any situation,” Foster said.
The Township of Conemaugh has also partnered with an independent outside body specializing in threat assessment before the start of the school year, he said.
Conemaugh Valley works with Gittings Protective Security Inc. for security assessments, as well as daily and event coverage.
“They came and did a full assessment of our buildings,” said Superintendent Shane Hazenstab.
In light of the Westmont incident, he and the administrative team met last week to discuss security procedures.
“Safety for us always remains at the forefront,” Hazenstab said. “We’re constantly looking for ways to adjust things and make the changes that we need. “
He described what happened at Westmont Hilltop as a frightening event and a conversation starter.
“They get you to take a very close look at what you do and how you do it,” Hazenstab said.
Amy Arcurio, Superintendent of Greater Johnstown, noted the Pennsylvania State Police Free Risk and Vulnerability Assessment her district has used in recent years.
High school principal and district security director Michael Dadey worked with state police to examine each building, allowing GJSD’s security committee to resolve any documented issues.
“I think whenever there is a safety situation at school, no matter where, within our community or across the country, it brings heightened awareness for all of us,” Arcurio said. .
“We’re always aware of what’s going on in our community – outside of our community,” he said.
Both also praised the district’s partnerships with school resource officers and the Johnstown Police Department. Greater Johnstown has three ORS in the district and 12 security guards.
“It’s necessary to be vigilant”
North Star officials said they review their security plan several times a year.
Louis Lepley, Superintendent, said that although no additional precautions were taken this week, “we try to do our due diligence on a daily basis with regard to security and information.”
There is a district-employed school police officer and seven Law 235 trained staff in all buildings. These people are trained to carry weapons.
The Richland School District holds an annual safety review process, Superintendent Arnold Nadonley said, but after the events at Westmont, officials reviewed those procedures again and students were reminded of safety best practices.
Nadonley acknowledged the difficult times Westmont families, staff and administrators are going through and spoke of the benefits the School Resources Officer has been to her district.
Richland also performs regular security upgrades, such as the recent installation of a new camera system with facial recognition software.
“You have to be vigilant at all times,” Nadonley said.