‘College security is all the time evolving’ at Westmont Hilltop

‘College security is all the time evolving’ at Westmont Hilltop

‘College security is all the time evolving’ at Westmont Hilltop

Mar. 4—Westmont Hilltop Excessive College college students are greeted every morning on the door by the varsity police officer or safety guards, an administrator and a faculty counselor.

College students are requested to take away hats and hoods as they enter the constructing, and if a scholar is seen appearing out of character, educators are fast to test in and ensure every part is OK. Procedures on the elementary faculty are comparable.

The district’s safety measures embody tons of of cameras, customer screenings and quite a few psychological well being helps for college kids.

“College security is all the time evolving,” Superintendent Thomas Mitchell mentioned. “We’re all the time studying.”

Westmont Hilltop has been scrutinized after a 14-year-old woman allegedly left a threatening word at the highschool on Jan. 30, then allegedly left one other word and broke a window on the elementary faculty earlier than being arrested early Feb. 6. That damaged window was changed the identical morning, officers mentioned.

Since then, some mother and father have voiced issues to the varsity board about transparency and security.

After every incident, district and regulation enforcement officers cited juvenile regulation and the continued investigation as explanation why they could not reveal extra data to the general public about what occurred — though faculty board members goal to enhance in that space.

What has been found is that police audio logs point out the suspect had a firearm when she was apprehended Feb. 6.

College officers say they’re all the time working to enhance safety measures transferring ahead.

“We do loads,” Mitchell mentioned. “We’re continually engaged on either side of the home on this.”

Mitchell mentioned safety cameras are repeatedly up to date. The district has a complete of 260 cameras at its two faculty buildings, in and out. For instance, the digital camera that produced a zoomed-in, cropped and grainy picture of the suspect within the menace case on Jan. 30 has already been changed with a greater mannequin.

“We do our greatest to ensure everyone seems to be secure and safe,” mentioned the district’s faculty police officer, Jason Hunter, who was employed in August. “We’re doing very effectively.”

Hunter has 35 years of expertise in regulation enforcement and spent a lot of his profession with the police division in Conemaugh Township, Somerset County. In comparison with his previous police work, together with a stint as a detective within the Somerset County District Legal professional’s Workplace, he mentioned, working with college students in a faculty is a unique however optimistic expertise.

“It is all the time one thing new,” Hunter mentioned. “It helps being a guardian and a grandparent.”

He added that he is aware of the varsity police officer at Conemaugh Township Space College District and the varsity useful resource officer at Windber Space College District, and the trio usually talk about the ins and outs of their positions.

Westmont Hilltop secured a greater than $240,000 Pennsylvania Fee on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) grant within the fall and landed its second state Secure Faculties grant for a faculty police officer in February. These allotments are along with different safety grants acquired up to now.

What resulted within the first grant was the district’s many behavioral and bodily baseline safety standards that meet the PCCD’s Tier Three requirements for greatest practices, Mitchell mentioned, corresponding to utilizing faculty local weather survey information to information insurance policies, implementing bullying prevention and involving native police within the district.

With that funding, directors additionally plan to put in alarms on exterior doorways at each faculty buildings and magnetic entry factors on inside doorways, together with between the gymnasium and Information Commons at the highschool, in order that “pods” will be created in emergencies and entry to components of the colleges will be restricted throughout extracurricular actions.

A number of the cash will go towards psychological well being helps, that are damaged into three tiers.

The primary tier is “common” and impacts almost all college students at the highschool, who’ve entry to the Sandy Hook Promise programming, which incorporates “Begin with Howdy” for seventh-graders and “Say One thing” for sophomores; the prevention program Botvin Life Abilities; suicide prevention occasions; and Safe2Say assemblies and the Rachel’s Problem FOR membership for college kids in seventh by twelfth grades.

Throughout odd faculty years, college students in every highschool grade take the Pennsylvania Youth Survey, a common behavioral well being screener and trauma-skilled classes.

The second tier of psychological well being assist is designed for at-risk college students and contains the lately authorized prevention-based Blues Program, the Therapeutic Patch grief and loss group, and packages from Sufferer Companies Inc.

The third tier contains focused and intensive interventions for “high-risk college students” that vary from Different Group Useful resource Program outpatient counseling, the brand new REACH/RISE counselor, trauma counseling with Sufferer Companies and different impact-based outpatient counseling.

Westmont Hilltop employs 5 full-time faculty counselors between each buildings, plus two social staff who can be found for college kids.

As for bodily safety, all outdoors doorways are locked after the start of the day and periodically checked by employees to make sure there’s been no illegal entry.

Different security measures embody mesh overlays on classroom door home windows that obscure views inside, and all glass within the district is shatterproof.

There are identification-checking units within the lobby of every constructing into which friends have to put their driver’s licenses throughout each go to to the colleges.

The district additionally employs a full-time faculty police officer, Hunter, and two part-time faculty law enforcement officials, and it contracts with Gittings Protecting Safety Inc. for a number of providers.

In complete, Westmont spent roughly $800,000 up to now yr on safety and psychological well being, Mitchell mentioned.

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