Lehigh Valley

School security tops agenda at East Penn

Some participating in National Walkout Day

EMMAUS, Pa. - Improving school and safety security in the wake of the recent mass shooting in Parkland High School in Florida was a topic for discussion at the East Penn School Board meeting Monday.

Alex Comfort of the Emmaus High School Student Government Association said that a number of students are planning to participate in the National Walkout Day on March 14 to protest gun violence.

The Women’s March’s Youth EMPOWER group was encouraging teachers, students, administrators and parents to walk out of schools nationwide at 10 a.m. for 17 minutes — one for each the 17 people killed in the Parkland shooting.

Emmaus High School students have created a social media account called @EHSActivism for both Twitter and Instagram to allow students to see their “desire for activism fulfilled,” Comfort said.

In a letter posted to the school district’s website, Superintendent Michael Schilder wrote that the district does not encourage or discourage the walkouts, and it will not prevent students from participating or discipline them if they do. 

Comfort said a meeting held at the high school last Thursday, attended by 160 people, in which students voiced their opinions on issues related to school safety, went very well.

Schilder and other district officials attended the meeting to hear students’ concerns.

District student Tanaya Mukherjee asked whether the district had plans for preventative action to prevent a tragedy such as the events in Parkland. She said she hoped that the district would work to have a plan in place so that such an incident “will never happen” to Emmaus High School. 

Schilder’s letter on the district website listed various plans and preparations in place to prevent a potential shooting. The letter said the district had an anonymous tip line where community members can provide information concerning drugs, alcohol, weapons and violent or dangerous acts involving East Penn students.

The number for the tip line is 610-966-8400.

Schilder said at Monday’s meeting that the district will continue to hold meetings at the high school every Thursday after school “until further notice” to discuss various topics related to school safety and allow opportunities for students to express their opinions. Schilder said he would attend many of these meetings.

Schilder said that the district employs a full-time, armed, school resource officer at the high school and that it works with Pennsylvania State Police and the Emmaus Police Department to ensure student safety.

The district has held several meetings with local police departments on ways to improve safety and security. Police may do daily exterior patrols outside of district schools.

Proposals being considered include police conducting daily walk-throughs of district schools and having police officers have lunch with school kids on a more regular basis.

The district is reviewing suggestions by the community on strengthening school safety, Schilder said. 

The district always seeks to foster a “positive school climate” and to make sure that students are comfortable speaking up and having their voices heard. 

Other business

Board members critiqued the proposed district calendar for the 2018-19 school year.

Board member Dr. Ziad Munson said that the calendar only dedicates two days or less during the year for possible school closings due to inclement weather.

Providing a maximum of two days for inclement weather days “doesn’t jibe” with the realities of weather in the region, which can cause schools to be closed for more than two days during the winter of any given year, Munson said. 

Board President Alan Earnshaw said that if the district increases the number of school days dedicated to possible snow days it would need to delay the end of the school year.

Munson also said that too many days are taken from instructional time to make time for standardized testing in April.

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