PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Pennsylvania School Safety Task Force on Tuesday wrapped up its sixth and final meeting on how to improve school safety.
Officials have been traveling the state, sitting down with parents, students, teachers and members of the law enforcement community. The meetings are about listening. Before state officials can recommend any kind of legal or policy solution, they want to hear directly from those most affected.
The common theme of concern throughout all the meetings is the need for more mental health support for students.
“Number one, there are a lot of schools where there aren’t even trained professionals in the schools to help kids that need it,” said Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
Students KDKA spoke with all agree it’s much needed.
“Teachers and administrators, they touch on it, but they don’t get into it. And I feel like it’s the root of every problem,” said Rhiya Godhania-Carter, a junior at Woodland Hills High School.
How to fund it and implement it are whole other issues.
“Now, I do recognize that there is going to be a cost to do that. But I think it’s A.) the moral thing to do, and B.) in the long-term, it’s a more cost-effective way to tackle it, too,” said DePasquale.
Security is the other main area of concern.
“Here at Woodland Hills, we have metal detectors. You walk through them every morning, you get your bag checked, and I feel safe,” said Kyle Fogarty, a senior at Woodland Hills High School.
Options discussed range from armed security guards to police officers. The auditor general told KDKA he does not believe arming teachers will be a recommendation.
“There is some strong belief that there should be additional security by people that are trained to do the necessary work,” said DePasquale.
As state officials return to Harrisburg armed with information, one thing is clear: there is no simple solution.
“When there’s mental health issues at all levels of education with the students, then you recognize it’s a complex solution that we’re going to come to and there’s not going to be an ‘Ah ha!’ moment where we’re going to solve the problem,” said Marcus Brown, Pennsylvania director of Homeland Security.
State officials tell KDKA they hope to have their recommendations compiled in a report to be made public later in June.