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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — As students across Pennsylvania head back to school, the images of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre remain on many minds.
“Schools that should be safe, secure places for our children to focus on their education and prepare themselves for lifelong success instead became another place that we needed to worry about where we are sending our children,” noted Marcus Brown, the Pennsylvania Homeland Security director at a press conference in Harrisburg on Monday.
That prompted Gov. Tom Wolf and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale to create a school safety task force that traveled the state to listen to “law enforcement, community leaders, teachers, school staff, and, most importantly, students,” noted DePasquale at the press conference.
- For more information, visit the Pa. Auditor General’s website here.
The top suggestion from students — easier student access to mental health counselors, not guidance counselors, but mental health experts.
“In Clinton County, one student described being lost when it came to finding help for her friend with depression,” said the auditor general.
“This was the student’s quote: ‘I don’t know who to go to talk about it.’”
The complaint was the same no matter the school district.
Amy Wadas’ Report:
Another concern is building security and more school resource officers in all schools.
“We need trained law enforcement officers from some of the great people we have at state police and some of the great law enforcement all over Pennsylvania to handle violence and to try to prevent violence in our classrooms,” said DePasquale.
The 61-page report has at least 31 good recommendations from students, parents, teachers and school administrators, but many of them cost money.
Pennsylvania school districts are notoriously short of cash, so it could be that these recommendations end up going nowhere.
“In order for funding for these things that are absolutely necessary, other areas have to give,” former superintendent and now Point Park University Prof. Dr. Linda Hippert told KDKA’s Jon Delano on Monday.
The state has $60 million to help, but when split among 500 school districts, Hippert says it’s not enough.
“Additional funding is going to be necessary,” she said.