‘School safety is always evolving’ at Westmont Hilltop

‘School safety is always evolving’ at Westmont Hilltop
‘School safety is always evolving’ at Westmont Hilltop

Mar. 4—Westmont Hilltop Excessive College college students are greeted every morning at the door by the college police officer or safety guards, an administrator and a faculty counselor.

College students are requested to take away hats and hoods as they enter the constructing, and if a pupil is observed performing out of character, educators are fast to verify in and ensure the whole lot is OK. Procedures at the elementary college are comparable.

The district’s safety measures embody a whole bunch of cameras, customer screenings and quite a few psychological well being helps for college students.

“College safety is always evolving,” Superintendent Thomas Mitchell stated. “We’re always studying.”

Westmont Hilltop has been scrutinized after a 14-year-old woman allegedly left a threatening observe at the highschool on Jan. 30, then allegedly left one other observe and broke a window at the elementary college earlier than being arrested early Feb. 6. That damaged window was changed the identical morning, officers stated.

Since then, some mother and father have voiced considerations to the college board about transparency and safety.

After every incident, district and regulation enforcement officers cited juvenile regulation and the continued investigation as the reason why they could not reveal extra data to the general public about what occurred — though college board members purpose to enhance in that space.

What has been found is that police audio logs point out the suspect had a firearm when she was apprehended Feb. 6.

College officers say they’re always working to enhance safety measures shifting ahead.

“We do quite a bit,” Mitchell stated. “We’re continuously engaged on each side of the home on this.”

Mitchell stated safety cameras are frequently up to date. The district has a complete of 260 cameras at its two college buildings, in and out. For instance, the digicam that produced a zoomed-in, cropped and grainy picture of the suspect within the menace case on Jan. 30 has already been changed with a greater mannequin.

“We do our greatest to ensure everybody is protected and safe,” stated the district’s college police officer, Jason Hunter, who was employed in August. “We’re doing very properly.”

Hunter has 35 years of expertise in regulation enforcement and spent a lot of his profession with the police division in Conemaugh Township, Somerset County. In comparison with his previous police work, together with a stint as a detective within the Somerset County District Legal professional’s Workplace, he stated, working with college students in a faculty is a distinct however constructive expertise.

“It is always one thing new,” Hunter stated. “It helps being a mum or dad and a grandparent.”

He added that he is aware of the college police officer at Conemaugh Township Space College District and the college useful resource officer at Windber Space College District, and the trio usually focus on the ins and outs of their positions.

Westmont Hilltop secured a greater than $240,000 Pennsylvania Fee on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) grant within the fall and landed its second state Secure Colleges grant for a faculty police officer in February. These allotments are along with different safety grants obtained up to now.

What resulted within the first grant was the district’s many behavioral and bodily baseline safety standards that meet the PCCD’s Tier Three requirements for finest practices, Mitchell stated, equivalent to utilizing college local weather survey knowledge to information insurance policies, implementing bullying prevention and involving native police within the district.

With that funding, directors additionally plan to put in alarms on exterior doorways at each college buildings and magnetic entry factors on inside doorways, together with between the gymnasium and Data Commons at the highschool, in order that “pods” will be created in emergencies and entry to components of the colleges will be restricted throughout extracurricular actions.

A number of the cash will go towards psychological well being helps, that are damaged into three tiers.

The primary tier is “common” and impacts almost all college students at the highschool, who’ve entry to the Sandy Hook Promise programming, which incorporates “Begin with Good day” for seventh-graders and “Say One thing” for sophomores; the prevention program Botvin Life Abilities; suicide prevention occasions; and Safe2Say assemblies and the Rachel’s Problem FOR membership for college students in seventh via twelfth grades.

Throughout odd college years, college students in every highschool grade take the Pennsylvania Youth Survey, a common behavioral well being screener and trauma-skilled classes.

The second tier of psychological well being assist is designed for at-risk college students and consists of the not too long ago permitted prevention-based Blues Program, the Therapeutic Patch grief and loss group, and packages from Sufferer Providers Inc.

The third tier consists of focused and intensive interventions for “high-risk college students” that vary from Different Neighborhood Useful resource Program outpatient counseling, the brand new REACH/RISE counselor, trauma counseling with Sufferer Providers and different impact-based outpatient counseling.

Westmont Hilltop employs 5 full-time college counselors between each buildings, plus two social employees who can be found for college students.

As for bodily safety, all outdoors doorways are locked after the start of the day and periodically checked by employees to make sure there’s been no illegal entry.

Different safety measures embody mesh overlays on classroom door home windows that obscure views inside, and all glass within the district is shatterproof.

There are identification-checking gadgets within the lobby of every constructing into which company have to put their driver’s licenses throughout each go to to the colleges.

The district additionally employs a full-time college police officer, Hunter, and two part-time college cops, and it contracts with Gittings Protecting Safety Inc. for a number of companies.

In whole, Westmont spent roughly $800,000 up to now yr on safety and psychological well being, Mitchell stated.

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