BROWNSVILLE, Pa. (KDKA) — The scare at Uniontown High School in late January when a student threatened violence at the school was a wake-up call to the nearby Brownsville School District.
Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower said at the time the student “indicated it would be very easy to sneak a gun into the school in his backpack.”
KDKA’s John Shumway Reports:
Brownsville immediately started looking into installing metal detectors and quickly realized it didn’t have the money. So, the owner of 84 Lumber and Nemacolin Woodland Resort, Maggie Hardy Magerko, stepped up and wrote a check.
Presenting the $7,300 on Tuesday, Hardy Magerko said, “I don’t know all the answers to preventing violence in our schools, but I do know that we have to do more. I can’t overstate my gratitude to the dedicated police officers and security guards who help protect our children and educators day in and day out, but they can’t do it alone. It makes me absolutely sick that school safety has become a political issue and that people like me have to step in and help. Safety should never be a choice; it’s commonsense and absolutely necessary.”
Brownsville Superintendent Dr. Keith Hartbauer said as he accepted the check, “Her generous contributions will positively impact 1,600 people every day. In order for education to occur, students and staff need to feel safe, now our community and school district can provide another layer of safety, thanks to her financial support.”
Where Brownsville is going with its security, Butler Area went a couple of years ago.
Superintendent Dr. Brian White says, “In each of our schools, there is a police officer at the entrance to the building and you have to go through a metal detector to get into the school.”
But not all schools have benefactors, or can afford metal detectors.
South Fayette Principal Aaron Skrbin points out, “Security measures are expensive, if you are getting into physical security measures, and school budgets already stretched thin.”
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on The KDKA Morning News on KDKA Radio says the issue needs attention.
“The state should play a leading role to work with our schools to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to protect our children, and that they have the resources, they being the schools to protect our children. I think the state and my administration would be very eager to play a role in that.”
In a district like the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the cost was incurred long ago and most schools now deploy metal detectors, but not everyone is willing to raise the security levels to that point.
“Schools are supposed to be nurturing caring places,” says South Fayette’s Aaron Skrbin. “I don’t think you want to turn them into fortresses that are uninviting and unwelcoming.
Quite a few districts believe resource security officers along with an active student and faculty watching for issues can head off problems.
Even in districts like Butler where metal detectors are used every day, they don’t necessarily like it.
Superintendent Dr. Brian White said, “It’s scary our society has come to this point. Who would have thought that fourth graders would have to go through metal detectors and have their bags searched to come to school.”
Skrbin adds, “There’s always more that can be done, but every school and community has to answer that question as to what’s most appropriate for them and what they are most comfortable with implementing.