SV, Mars beef up security
December 19, 2012
JACKSON TWP — Seneca Valley Superintendent Tracy Vitale in a letter to parents Sunday said she and other administrators convened a special meeting with local law enforcement to discuss and address student safety. The meeting came in the wake of Friday's school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in which a gunman killed 20 first graders in an elementary school, seven women including his mother, and then himself. After that incident, the district moved forward to arm school police. Vitale said she met with at least four law enforcement agencies Sunday and added that students and parents alike would notice changes when they came to school Monday. “In the coming days you will notice a heightened awareness on the part of Seneca Valley staff and local law enforcement,” Vitale said. “I have requested increased police presence in every one of our buildings. This is not meant to alarm, but rather to reassure you of our commitment to student and staff safety.” Jackson Township police Chief Terry Seilhamer said Monday morning that he and two other officers were on hand at the secondary campus to watch students get off the buses. “There will be an increase in police presence both during and after school hours and for school athletic events,” he said. “It's just precautionary.” Vitale in the letter went on to list a litany of security procedures already in place in the school district, including access-controlled entry systems, armed officers on campus and mobile metal detectors. The superintendent reassured parents that their children will enter a safe environment at Seneca Valley, but cautioned that the process of keeping students safe isn't solely done at school. “As with any initiative at Seneca Valley, we can't do it alone,” she said. “We thank you for providing a cooperative and supportive environment at home and in our schools.” In addition to increased security measures, Vitale said school counselors will be on hand to talk with students regarding any questions or concerns they might have. Mars School Board President Dayle Ferguson said Monday morning that the district will have an Adams Township officer on patrol on campus until at least Christmas break. She said the district placed a high priority on security, and that administrators will be “refreshing and reinforcing” current protocol to make sure it's up to date. Officials in Butler and South Butler school districts and Butler County officials worked through the weekend to legally arm school security guards. The Freeport School District is reinforcing current security measures, said Todd O'Shell, district spokesman. He said all five schools have buzzer entries. Staff writers Kim Paskorz, Jared Stonesifer, Kelly Garrett and Tom Victoria contributed to this report.