CLARKS SUMMIT -The recent violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., prompted many parents of students in the Abington Heights School District to call and inquire about the administration's plans to prevent a similar occurrence.
In the days following the tragedy, we have had many phone calls from parents, Abington Heights Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Mahon said. It was a source of great concern….
We, as a school district, take security very, very seriously, Mahon added. We conduct safety drills, we bring in state police officers to look at our facilities and offer recommendations, we have auditors come in and offer recommendations, and once a month, Principal Pamela Murray, is meeting with our regional police chiefs.
Mahon stressed that while the district takes many steps to ensure the safety of its students, it's not comfortable providing all of its security information to the general public.
We are very slow and hesitant to divulge the specifics of what we do to parents and people outside the school district, Mahon said. If we were to make all that information public, it might be of assistance of someone who wants to do us harm.
While the district is committed to improving its security measures, Mahon believes that all decisions should be carefully thought out.
We do want to make improvements and be sensitive about how to keep our kids safe at school, but we don't want to make hasty, bad decisions, he said. We recognize there has to be a comprehensive approach to increasing student safety.
Mahon warned about the danger of what some schools are now doing in the aftermath of the latest shooting, including active shooter drills.
We cannot make our kids afraid to come to school, Mahon said. We cannot overreact and take actions that make kids frightened. Our effort is to do meaningful things, but not frighten our kids from coming to school.
According to Mahon, the district has been taking steps to ensure that potential problems are solved in the best possible manner.
We have been training our staff and administration over the past two or three years in conflict resolution and de-escalation techniques, Mahon said. Our hope is that as we continue to train people, we will be able to deal with those kinds of things in a better way, and lower the pressure as opposed to increasing it.
Mahon added the district is exploring the opportunity to offer mental health screenings to help identify problems before they become greater.
According to Mahon, Robert Bugno, Principal of Newton Ransom and South Abington Elementary schools, said the best way to prevent problems is to find the children now who are detached, bullied, odd, or removed, and better include them in our school community.
In other business, Mahon discussed his concern that the district's charter school, Howard Gardner, could take students away from the district, if they continue to cut programs such as Mandarin Chinese and Latin.
They had the wisdom to take exactly what we were doing here and run with it, while we failed, as adults, to figure out a way to keep it here, despite no lack of or resources from the school board, Mahon said regarding the Mandarin Chinese program which was eliminated at the end of the 2011-12 school year after the district's teachers union won a labor dispute.