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Waynesboro officials mull school safety

March 14, 2001

Waynesboro officials mull school safety



By DON AINES / Staff Writer


WAYNESBORO, Pa. - In the wake of two incidents this month that resulted in three students facing criminal charges, Waynesboro Area School District Interim Superintendent Herbert A. Phelps said Tuesday the district will try to help students police themselves.

"Students are the best policers of their own ranks," Phelps said at the meeting of the school district's Board of School Directors. He said the district formed a task force early in the school year to examine student discipline, but now it is being asked to look at both school security and creating an environment in which students feel comfortable reporting incidents or behavior that could be a prelude to violence.

"Students really have a responsibility, not only to themselves, but their fellow students" to report their suspicions to school authorities, Phelps said.

On Friday, a Waynesboro Area Senior High School student found a threatening note and turned it over to a teacher. Phelps said two high school students were taken into custody by Waynesboro police in connection with the note, which was a bomb threat.

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On March 2, a Waynesboro Area Middle School student was charged with making terroristic threats for having allegedly having a "hit list" of students, Waynesboro Police said.

In both cases, it was students telling a teacher or other adult that led to the investigations, Phelps said.

The middle school student, a girl, was charged as a juvenile with making terroristic threats, according to school officials. A school official last week said the two high school boys likely would be arraigned this week on the same charge.

Phelps said he has asked administrators, counselors and members of the Student Assistance Program, or SAP Team, to examine the issues of the physical security at the middle and high schools and making sure "the climate within our schools is conducive to students bringing their concerns to administrators."

Phelps said the SAP Teams "meet on a regular basis to deal with students having problems with behavior or fitting in."

Although neither of the incidents involved a weapon, School Director Leland Lemley suggested that the district could invite the National Rifle Association's Eddie Eagle gun safety program to make a presentation at the high school.

"I don't mind teaching gun safety, but I don't think it should be done in a school environment," said Jason Green, a student representative at the meeting. He said gun safety is an issue that "starts at home."

Director Stanley Barkdoll said some kind of gun safety program could be beneficial. He said some young people might consider a gun a "tool of power ... but the weapon starts to think for them."

Since March 5, when two students were killed in a shooting in Santee, Calif., there have been a spate of incidents in this area, including in Chambersburg, Pa., Frederick, Md., and Charles Town, W.Va., involving alleged threats of violence by students.

Director Hector Gomez said incidents like the one in California create a "flare-up of copycats."

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