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December 20, 2012

In The Schools: Armed guards will continue at Neshannock

NEW CASTLE — Armed security guards, an apparent sign of the times, will continue at Neshannock High School.

Dr. Mary Todora, Neshannock Township School District superintendent, attended a township supervisors meeting along with Robert Shaffer, head of school security and Lt. John Rand of the Neshannock Township police department yesterday, where they outlined what safety measures the school has taken following a shooting rampage Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and several teachers.

“I was one who opposed the presence of firearms in the schools,” Shaffer said. “I didn’t feel young students should see people with guns. But we’ve re-evaluated the situation.”

The school district has employed security guards, all retired police officers, for the past five years, Shaffer said.

 For the past three years, he has carried a concealed weapon on school property.

Now, all security guards will carry guns at school.

Shaffer said the district will have three on-site guards, one at the high school, one in the elementary school and one floater between the two wings of the building.

All of the guards will be certified under Act 235 Lethal Weapons Training Act, and all weapons will be concealed, he said.

Additionally, the school has updated security, surveillance and security at the doors, he said.

“I can’t say we can prevent this type of tragedy in New Castle,” said Shaffer, who has been in law enforcement for 32 years. “But we will try to slow it down.”

Todora praised local and state police for their quick response to events at the school over the past years.

Beginning in January, Todora said, the school will practice lockdown drills so teachers and students will know what to do if a lockdown occurs.

“If a lock-in is called and you’re in the restroom or cafeteria, what do you do? Where do you go?” she said.

“Call me over-protective, but we’re dealing with innocent little kids, even the high school students,” Todora said.

She credited supervisor Joe Gierlach, who served on the school board when the district hired its security guards.

Shaffer said he welcomes suggestions from police or the community to improve school security.

He added that last year, District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa assembled police, security officers and school officials to review security measures. Another seminar has is planned for Jan. 10.

(Email: nlowry@ncnewsonline.com)

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