EDITORIAL: Focus locally on school security
With the ramifications of the horrific Valentine’s Day shooting in a Parkland, Florida, high school reverberating locally, The town hall meeting Wednesday, Feb. 28, on school safety at Central York High School can’t come soon enough.
Central York is just one of several local districts that have endured threats and/or disruptions in the wake of the shootings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 students and staff dead and another 15 wounded.
While students nationwide were marching out of their schools last week to protest lax gun-safety laws and the do-nothing lawmakers who abide them, Central York students weren’t able to get into their schools. District officials canceled classes for three straight days last week after threats were directed at the middle and elementary schools.
A police announcement Sunday evening that a district middle-schooler had been identified as making the threats brought a modicum of relief to the district. And the return of regular classes Monday brought an air of normalcy.
But it should not be normal for students to have to leave their backpacks home, as Central York’s pupils must this week. It should not be normal for district officials to have to walk a verbal tightrope as they try to explain the gravity of school threats to students without frightening them. It should not be normal for students to always have an escape route in the back of their minds while they try to concentrate on chemistry or algebra.
But it is becoming normal. And that’s the problem.
It is against this backdrop that Wednesday’s public meeting on school security and safety will be held, and it deserves a robust turnout.
School officials and police need to hear from all quarters about how to not only make public schools more secure, but to return to them an atmosphere of safety. Students — especially those who already face educational challenges associated with low-income or housing-insecure families — cannot be expected to excel amid a climate of disruption and distraction.
Such discussions, frankly, should be held regularly and in many more districts.
After all, Central York is not the only area school system currently wrestling with threats and security concerns:
- A threatening note was found in a restroom inside William Penn Senior High School Monday, Feb. 26, according to a letter written by principal Brandon Carter.
- West Manchester Township Police over the weekend charged a 12-year-old and an 18-year-old with spreading threats to “do harm” against the West York Area School District. Unlike the York Central threat, police were quickly able to ferret out the suspects — both students in the district.
- Eastern York officials wrestled with alleged threats toward a teacher and student at the high school and the Wrightsville Elementary School last week.
- Northern Regional police beefed up their presence in the Dover Area School District following rumors of threats — which turned out to be unfounded.
- Threats were similarly rumored but found to be baseless in the South Western and Southern York school districts, as well as in Hanover.
Tensions are clearly high, and the social-media rumor mill is not helping.
So Wednesday’s town hall meeting is timely and much-needed.
While political leaders kick around ill-advised ideas ranging from arming teachers to mandatory death penalties for school shooters, local officials must focus on more granular, district-specific strategies.
The discussion starts tonight. Make your voice heard.
IF YOU GO:
What: A town hall meeting to discuss safety and security
When: 6:30 this evening
Where: Central York High School, 601 Mundis Mill Road, Springettsbury Township.