School safety occupies COG representatives

How we protect students in light of the recent school shooting tragedy in Newtown, Conn. is still being debated in Warren County.

Municipal and county officials discussed the issue at Wednesday night’s meeting of the Council of Governments at the 911 Center.

Warren City Manager Nancy Freenock asked if there have been any county-wide drills addressing “how to handle an active shooter situation.”

Rich Barrett, president of Warren County Fire Services, told the COG that a meeting was held “last night (Tuesday). The volunteer fire departments and the city fire department as well as all the police entities actively discussed the situation and what our next steps are going to be.”

“It’s going to be actively looked into,” he added. “The (Warren County) school district has actually stepped up and ramped up their situation as far as their staffing. They’ve had quite a bit of updates going on. It’s all kept close to the vest.”

“I know the schools are locked up tighter than tight,” Pleasant Township Supervisor Arden Knapp said.

The discussion also covered another hot-button issue – whether or not to arm teachers in the classroom.

“We hire teachers in Warren County to teach and not to turn into temporary police,” Glade Township Supervisor Joe Scully said. “Some wacko could take the gun off you. Let’s use trained police people rather than a few teachers carrying the gun in the classroom.”

Rich Bimber, a representative from Kathy Rapp’s office, noted that some school districts actually have continual, on-site police officers.

Offering a potential alternative, Warren County Commissioner John Bortz said that he was part of an initiative several years ago that attended a conference in Georgia that examined the option of school resource officers.

According to the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency, “the School Resource Officer Program is a nationally accepted program involving the placement of law enforcement officers within the educational environment.”

School Resource Officers would “Act in a capacity first and foremost as a law enforcement officer,” a program description said; however, SROs can also provide crime prevention support among a host of other functions.

“A little work was done in Warren County” on school resource officers, Bortz said.