South Western superintendent: Armed school officer suspended indefinitely
The private company that provides armed security officers to South Western School District has suspended one of those guards — West Manheim Township's recently retired police chief — after he was charged with drunken driving.
Tim Hippensteel, 55, of Heidelberg Township, is employed by G-Force Investigations, a private company that contracts with the school district to provide school security.
Hippensteel's G-Force Investigations assignment was to keep West Manheim Elementary School and its students safe.
After he was arrested Thursday, March 14, by Penn Township Police for alleged drunken driving — off duty — it was unclear whether he would remain on the job at the elementary school.
South Western Superintendent Jay Burkhart spoke with The York Dispatch on Tuesday, March 19, and said that for now, he must restrict his comments to those he made in a recent letter to parents and guardians of district students.
"As things develop, if we're able to comment, I'd certainly be willing to do that," he said.
On the evening of Monday, March 18, Burkhart issued a letter to parents and guardians of district students.
Indefinite suspension: A parent supplied that letter to The York Dispatch.
In it, Burkhart writes that G-Force Investigations "has placed Mr. Hippensteel on indefinite suspension from the district, pending a complete investigation."
The letter informs parents about the DUI charge and says that the school district "recognizes the seriousness of these charges and believes behavior such as this does not meet the standards expected of contractor employees assigned to our district.
"The district will continue to consult with G-Force on this matter and take further action as appropriate," Burkhart wrote.
The superintendent noted the matter is confidential and that he has no further comment about it at this time.
Hippensteel has been a familiar face at West Manheim Elementary for years.
Parents have said that when he was chief, he would direct school bus traffic at the school nearly every day.
The allegations: Charging documents allege Hippensteel was driving east in the 900 block of York Street in Penn Township about 12:45 a.m. Feb. 23.
A Penn Township officer following him watched Hippensteel cross the center line more than once and nearly hit an oncoming vehicle, charging documents allege.
Hippensteel was traveling at 22 mph at the time, documents state.
A test later determined his blood-alcohol level to be 0.259 percent, which is more than three times the state's legal limit. In Pennsylvania, an adult is driving drunk at 0.08 percent.
Hippensteel's preliminary hearing is scheduled for April 16.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.