Berks groups weigh in on effort to stop school tragedies


A chilling public service announcement from the Sandy Hook Promise Foundation has a lot of people talking. It focuses on school safety, which is always on the minds of authorities and folks at the Berks County Intermediate Unit.

The PSA starts off light-hearted, recognizing the start of the school year. Then, it takes a dark turn. The minute-long clip shows what can happen when a gunman opens fire in a school.

It's a threat that doesn't go unnoticed, and in Berks County, steps are being taken ahead of time to try to prevent a tragedy from happening here.

"Berks has really been one of the best counties in the commonwealth when it comes to working together to ensure the safety of our students they've done it for many years," said George Longridge, the chief financial officer and chief operating officer of the Berks County Intermediate Unit.

The BCUI is one of the organizations leading that charge. In July, it started its Berks County Safety and Security Consortium. It was formed in part due to government mandates requiring trauma training to staff and the creation of threat assessment teams.

"It's really important to work collaboratively with all of the different partners in the county," said Longridge.

Berks County Sheriff Eric Weaknecht will be taking on a new role soon as a part of Gov. Tom Wolf's Special Council on Gun Violence. Everyone appointed will work together to come up with more ideas to keep kids and Pennsylvanians safe.

"Thank God [we haven't had] a situation like that here in Berks County, but that doesn't mean we couldn't," Weaknecht said.

In addition to the school safety aspects, the BCIU is also putting a larger focus on providing mental health resources to students.