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March 08, 2018

Auditor general to step up safety and security reviews at Pennsylvania schools

Schools Security
03082018_classroom_Unsplash Celia Ortega/on Unsplash

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State reviews of safety at Pennsylvania schools will be enhanced in the wake of the Parkland mass shooting in Florida.

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale on Thursday said he will make significant changes to the reviews conducted by his department.


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First, school safety objectives will now be included in all school audits and reviews.

Secondly, the results of safety audits will be shared with more stakeholders. Currently, just school superintendents and school safety officers receive the results. That information now will be shared with law enforcement, specifically the Pennsylvania State Police, the state attorney general and local police departments.

After the deadly 2006 shooting at the Nickel Mines Amish School in Lancaster, auditor general's department added a school safety component to its audit objectives.

The reviews include building entrances and exits, monitoring and surveillance, buildings and grounds security, visitor procedures and emergency plans, policies and procedures.

The most common audit safety recommendations involve issues within some of those areas.

In particular, DePasquale said his auditors have found:

• Lack of single point of entry and exit

• Unlocked and unoccupied classrooms, gyms and auditoriums

• Lack of annual practice drills involving first responders

• School grounds not patrolled by a school resource/ security officer

• Failure to provide annual training on the emergency plan procedures with all staff

• Exterior doors not numbered or otherwise labeled on the outside to assist emergency responders

• No alarm systems on exterior doors

• No assigned or designated staff, student and visitor parking

• No signs directing visitors to the main office

• Delivery logs not maintained

• Central security alarm not active during school hours

• Play and recreation areas not protected with fencing

• Vehicular access not restricted around play areas

“In particular, most schools have emergency preparedness plans in place that are constantly being reviewed and shared with first responders," DePasquale said in a news release. "However, we still see areas where improvements are needed in school safety.”

DePasquale said he would visit schools to meet with students, teachers and parents to get feedback to improve the audits.

“We need the experience and advice of everyone if we are to ensure our schools are safe havens for student education and safe from dangerous people intent on doing harm,” he said. “I especially look forward to hearing the thoughts and ideas of students.”

The school construction and renovation process in state school districts also will be looked at by DePasquale's office to ensure safety concerns are included in the planning for such projects.

“School safety must be part of the planning for these projects," he said. "To ignore school safety issues in these projects would be flat-out irresponsible.”

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