Lawmakers, school officials talk school safety ahead of school year

SOUTH LEBANON TOWNSHIP, LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. - Arming school teachers, adding student resource officers, and funding for mental health. Those were just some of the topics talked about at a roundtable discussion with state lawmakers and school officials in Lebanon County.

When it comes to security, adding extra cameras may seem like a good idea but Senator Mike Regan says if you don't have someone trained to monitor those cameras they can be useless.

"Unless you have someone watching monitors the entire time that school is open, someone trained in behavior analytics, watching what's going on," said Sen. Regan. "All you're doing is documenting a tragedy."

Stopping a school intruder is something all schools should take the steps to do but some officials say a solution is more complex. Lebanon County District Attorney, Dave Arnold says, solutions should begin with treating mental illness which is hard to do because of lack of funding.

"You know we have people we identify as having needs that don't belong in the system but what do we do with those people," said Arnold. "There's no places to send them, there's no place to send them for treatment, and there's no funding to pay for their medications."

On top of mental health issues, York County District Attorney, Dave Sunday, says social media plays a big role in kids feeling unsafe. He says, he's talked to kids after threats were made at different schools and 90 percent of their fears were about social media.

"The brutality of the school bullying is overwhelming and it's not just during the day," said Sunday. "You get a reprieve at 4:30 when you go home. It's all day, it's all night and all the kids the most powerful weapon they have is right here, their iPhone and it never stops."

Lawmakers and school officials also discussed the idea of giving teachers the choice to carry. Superintendents at the meeting that spoke out on this topic were not in favor of doing this.

"To do that without the appropriate training, to have the protocols and the planning in place you're just creating more of a potential for harm," said Philip Domencic, Cornwall-Lebanon School District.

At the end of the day, school officials at the meeting believe to truly implement a plan that keeps kids safe in schools, there needs to be consistent funding year after year to add people into the schools to focus strictly on security. Lawmakers say finding that funding will be a top priority when they reconvene at the Statehouse.

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