In the wake of the tragic December mass shootings in Connecticut, two state Senate committees will review how emergency measures can be improved in Pennsylvania schools.
The Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee, chaired by Sen. Lisa Baker, R-Lehman Township, and the Education Committee will hold a joint hearing from 9 to 11 a.m. Feb. 13 in Harrisburg.
What happened in Connecticut has made many of our schools re-evaluate the plans they have in place, Baker said.
While attention has been paid to grade-school levels, said Baker said, colleges, day cares and other facilities where children are gathered need to have emergency plans. Whether a parent escorts their child to the bus stop or drops them off at the front door, they want assurances their child will be safe during school hours, Baker said.
To accomplish that, Baker said, all parties involved in the operations and safety of schools need to discuss policies of preventing emergency situations and how to respond if one does arise.
Every day care, school, college and university must have an emergency plan in place, and they need to be able to carry it out, Baker said. Law enforcement and other emergency personnel need the training and capacity necessary to prevent or respond to a crisis – large or small.
Among those people being sought to testify at the hearing are representatives of the state Department of Education, state police, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, Pennsylvania State Education Association and Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association, plus school superintendents, teachers and principals.
Among the strategies to be discussed is a proposal by Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, R-Brockway, to give grants to schools to train and hire armed guards.
In light of the unimaginable tragedy which took place in Newtown last month, it is apparent that the most important thing government can do in order to combat evil is to ensure the greatest level of security possible in our schools, Scarnati said.
Many school districts across the state now employ armed police and school resource officers. Locally, they include Wilkes-Barre Area, Wyoming Area and Wyoming Valley West school districts. Others, such as Hazleton Area, actually have their own school police force.
Superintendents who have contacted me in the past month have extolled the value of the presence of these brave individuals in their schools, while others have inquired as to where they can procure the funding in order to hire them, Scarnati noted.