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Pa. bill would keep school safety plans out of public eye
A Pennsylvania bill that would allow local officials to discuss school safety plans in executive session hasn’t become law yet.
But that isn’t stopping Dover Area School District representatives from being tight-lipped about the safety plans enveloped in the new Dover Area High School blueprints.
According to Senate Bill 1078, sponsored by Sen. Robert Tomlinson, R-Bucks, local school district and municipal officials would be allowed legally to discuss school safety plans in executive session. Republican Sens. Mike Regan and Mike Folmer, who represent parts of York County, helped introduce the bill.
Dover Township supervisors and school district officials recently met to discuss the progress of the new 210,000-square-foot Dover Area High School. Construction is anticipated to break ground this summer.
Chairman Steve Stefanowicz asked school district representatives if they could explain to the township, in a “less than two-hour proposal,” what their security plans are.
School district representatives said they opt to talk about safety measures privately and mentioned the pending legislation that would give them teeth.
“We’ll continue to house our school resource officer, going forward, and we’ll look at the possibility for some metal detectors," Superintendent Tracy Krum said. "And, of course, we’ll have locked doors and everything like that. Without going into specifics, we really don’t talk about it in a public meeting.”
The state's Office of Open Records reports that local government and school district officials may discuss personnel matters; negotiate terms of a collective bargaining agreement; consider a purchase or lease of real property; and consult with an attorney about active or pending litigation in executive session.
The Feb. 14 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 students and teachers lost their lives, is the inspiration behind the legislative action, Dover representatives said to township supervisors.
In a February memo sent to all state senators, Tomlinson and Regan expressed their concerns, writing that the Florida school shooting is "another traumatic event in recent history that has compromised our school and security, both individually and as a nation."
They noted that school-aged children are "subject to active shooter drills and metal detectors" and that increased security has become "a way of life as we enter many public and private buildings."
They explained municipalities and school districts "struggle" to prepare to protect their populations, and meanwhile, those security plans are subject to public scrutiny.
The bill says that not only would school safety measures be discussed in executive session, but also sensitive documents would be protected from being accessed under Pennsylvania’s Right-to-Know laws.
Any information that details "emergency preparedness" plans would be protected, the bill says.
The state Senate in April unanimously passed the bill. It currently sits in the House State Government Committee.
If approved, the act would take effect in 60 days, according to the bill.