Local educators take steps to prevent school violence

March 26, 1998|By RICHARD F. BELISLE, Waynesboro

Local educators take steps to prevent school violence

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - Area educators said Wednesday that while they take students' threats seriously, there was nothing anyone could have done to prevent Tuesday's ambush at an Arkansas middle school in which four students and a teacher died and 11 others were wounded.

"How can you prevent lunacy?" said P. Duff Rearick, Greencastle-Antrim School District superintendent.

Rearick said educators shouldn't overreact in the wake of such violence. "We have to take precautions, but we have to be careful not to develop hysteria," he said.

A former Westside Middle School student, 13, and another 11-year-old boy were arrested in the Arkansas shooting.

Police said the two boys lured classmates out of school with a false fire alarm, then mowed them down in a barrage of bullets.


Rearick, like other Tri-State educators, said he plans no drastic security measures such as installing metal detectors, locking entrance doors or putting armed guards in schools.

"Metal detectors and security guards are a bad idea. They don't work. Students find ways to get around them," said Dennis Kenney, research director for the Washington, D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum.

"You can't have a lock-down atmosphere in the schools. It will turn them into prisons," Kenney said.

The forum's membership consists of more than 800 chiefs of police from around the country, Kenney said. The agency, among other things, evaluates pilot programs such as one launched last year in a Charlotte, N.C., inner-city high school that removed metal detectors and armed guards on the premise that students and teachers can control violence through training and by identifying potential violent behavior.

"The idea is to get students involved. The number of violent incidents in that school dropped 40 percent," Kenney said.

"There was a case where a girl brought a gun to school and 30 students turned her in within a half-hour," he said. Kenney said the concept doesn't cost money, it works and creates a better school atmosphere.

Area educators reported few instances of guns being found in school.

Two pellet guns were confiscated in school and a student was charged with making threats with a knife off school property, but no real guns have been found in Waynesboro Area School District schools, said Superintendent Robert Mesaros.

Federal law requires that all students found with weapons in school be expelled, said Lynn Lerew, spokesman for the Chambersburg Area School District.

Richard Deuell, principal of Martinsburg High School in Martinsburg, W.Va., said no guns have been found in his school this year. Deuell said the school has an unarmed security guard to protect students' cars in the parking lot. He said administrators and teachers consider any threat by students to be serious.

"We follow up on all of them, but there are some things you have no control over."

Joseph Millward, supervisor of guidance for Washington County schools, said there have been 29 incidents of weapons confiscated in the school system, mostly pocketknives.

In once case, a high school student was expelled when he forgot to take a shotgun used for hunting from the trunk of his car before driving onto school property.

"We consider that an accident," Millward said.

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