Lehigh Valley

Easton Area parents concerned about school safety

All not in agreement about how to proceed

EASTON, Pa. - A handful of Easton parents approached the school board Tuesday evening to inquire about the district's plans on beefing up security, particularly at the high school. 

Parents justified their concerns in light of the discovery three weeks ago by high school officials of an undisclosed threatening message written on a men's bathroom wall, in addition to the massacre by gunfire of 17 students and staff at a central Florida high school last week. 

Forks Township resident and mother of two Kristin Norwood asked, "Why can't people be moved to do something about this? Time is of the essence here."

She advocated installing metal detectors in the high school, to be used upon entrance for everyone, at every hour and every day, with no exceptions. 

Easton High School English teacher and teachers' union president Kevin Deely called the recent shootings "So very tragic and something for which we need to find a solution."

He labeled arming teachers with guns a "ridiculous idea," in addition to the installation of expensive metal detectors requiring 100 extra personnel hours weekly. He remarked that metal detectors won't really accomplish much of anything, especially in the long term.

Instead, Deely supports addressing mental health issues and suggested increasing professional staffing in this area. He also suggested providing teachers with the skills to recognize signs of depression and suicide potential. 

Eastonian and high school mother Christine Sostarecz condemned school officials for not providing details on the bathroom wall threat or a specific action plan to address any future incidents. She said being informed by school secretaries over the phone that her daughter was safe and the school was doing everything possible just isn't enough. 

"We need changes because this is a war against our children," she said and added, "And they know we are failing them."

She supported the idea of metal detectors at the high school regardless of cost and inconvenience.

Retired FBI agent Bill Tonkin of Palmer asked the board, "What about the cultural component here for the maladjusted?"

He commented that the school shootings problem will not just go away, because now it is considered the norm, and lockdowns are not the answer. 

He recommended electronically surveying students anonymously about firearms, threats and the like all the while controlling "leakage" when threats are issued.

He also believes in following up on expelled students until age 21 and ensuring connectivity between students.

Board president George Chando said the board spent over an hour being extensively briefed prior to Tuesday's meeting and alluded to a possible future emergency meeting to act on the security assessment  presented earlier Tuesday afternoon. 

He explained that the school district will consider all additional security options presented and will vote on a finalized list of recommendations. He noted that local law enforcement personnel will decide how best to communicate the changes to the public.

Chando said that the Easton School District has been working on solutions to security issues for a considerable time period, well before recent local and national occurrences events brought this to the forefront.

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