HEMPFIELD, Pa. (KDKA) – A student is calling for changes in the Hempfield Area schools after two recent safety threats, including students caught with two loaded guns and another student threatening classmates.
The school board approved a motion, placing Policy 226 on review for 30 days. If it passes, then the district can do daily searches on all students and visitors if the superintendent approves the measure.
Two high school students have been expelled, the Hempfield Area school board approved.
“What are you guys going to do, because the longer you wait and do random searches, kids feel like it’s a game. What happens if you guys don’t do a search?” Hempfield Area senior Nick Miiller asked the school board on Monday.
Miller remained frustrated about not seeing stronger safety changes at his school after two serious incidents. He feels students don’t have a voice.
“The fear of not being heard or the fear of something bad happening at school. I’m here today telling you that we are disappointed as students and disgusted with the way things are being handled with the situation. Kids are scared,” Miller added.
Police say a high schooler brought two loaded handguns to school and gave them to classmates. One on a bus and the other in a bathroom, prompting a lockdown.
The three 15-year-oldsin juvenile court, according to the Westmoreland County district attorney. After the incident, high school students were searched with metal detector wands.
Then,to bring a gun and shoot other classmates.
“This literally has been discussed every day, not just since the incident, but prior to that. I understand your frustration 100%. We are doing as much as we can,” Mike Alfrey, the Hempfield Area school director, said.
One parent and school board candidate says change needs to happen now.
“The toll about worrying about violence in school is having an effect on our students. They want some solutions,” said Erin Johns-Speese, Hempfield Area school board candidate and parent.
The board started a new security committee, looking at ways to improve school safety. They are also considering metal and weapon detectors, as well as backpack rule changes.
“We now can utilize daily searches of any student and any visitor to the school property if we choose. If it’s determined appropriate by the superintendent,” solicitor Krisha DiMascio said. “Before what it was, you had to be by ‘reasonable suspicion of a threat or an incident that occurred.'”
“Any policy has to go through a 30-day review period before it’s approved by the board to allow public comment,” DiMascio added.
Alfrey also told Miller he wants to hear from students to get feedback about this process.
More information on Policy 226 can be found below.
The Board acknowledges the need to respect the rights of students to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures while fulfilling the district’s interest in protecting and preserving the health, safety and welfare of the school population, enforcing rules of conduct, and maintaining an appropriate atmosphere conducive to learning.
School officials have the authority to lawfully search students or their belongings, including lockers, automobiles, electronic devices, purses, backpacks, clothing, and other possessions, without a warrant, when in school, on school grounds or when otherwise under school supervision, if there is a reasonable suspicion that the place or thing to be searched contains prohibited contraband, material that would pose a threat to the health, safety and welfare of the school population, or evidence that there has been a violation of the law, Board policy, or school rules. The scope and extent of searches must be reasonable in relation to the nature of the suspected evidence, contraband or dangerous material and to the grounds for suspecting that it may be found in the place or thing being searched.
The Board authorizes the administration to conduct searches of students or their belongings, including lockers, automobiles, electronic devices, purses, backpacks, clothing, and other possessions in accordance with the standards set forth in this policy.
The Superintendent or designee, in consultation with the district solicitor, shall develop guidelines and procedures to implement this policy, and shall ensure that school staff who are involved in carrying out searches or determining when searches will be conducted receive appropriate periodic training about such procedures and currently applicable legal standards.