3 security guards hired for armed patrol at Shamokin Area
COAL TOWNSHIP - Three armed security guards were hired Tuesday to patrol Shamokin Area School District.
Coupled with recent purchases of four metal detectors, the moves are preventative measures taken in response to December's deadly school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"That was my goal, for Shamokin to be the first school to implement all these safety measures for the kids," Brian Persing, board president, said after Tuesday's school board meeting.
He hopes Shamokin Area will serve as leaders for other area school districts that may consider implementing similar measures.
Jerry Cavanaugh and Daniel Fanella, former corrections officers, and James Yost, a retired state police officer, were unanimously hired at a $15 hourly rate for 180 school days. They'll each be assigned to one of three district school buildings.
Director Charlie Shuey called the move an "unfortunate reality of the climate that exists in schools today."
The armed guards will be responsible to maintain high visibility, perform internal investigations and respond to emergencies, according to a revised job description adopted Tuesday. They will not have the power of arrest, a job task removed from a job description adopted last month.
The trio will carry Glock .40-caliber handguns, the same as local police officers. Persing said each will be given $450 to use either towards the purchase of the weapon or in the cases of the former corrections officers, towards mandatory lethal weapons training. Yost retired from the state police last week and remains certified in lethal weapons. Cavanaugh and Fanella must complete necessary Act 235 training.
Despite the men's employment background and certifications, either current or pending, Shamokin Area Solicitor James Zurick must also petition Northumberland County Court for the security guards to be armed on school grounds, Persing said.
He isn't concerned that the armed guards will be without weapons at the outset of their employment. "I'm more concerned we're up and running for the beginning of next school year without rushing or making mistakes," he said.
The newly hired security personnel will meet Tuesday with building principals and members of the school board's security committee to further discuss day-to-day duties. Persing said they'll soon begin training on the four metal detectors.
Two metal detectors will be set up at the middle/high school, where students, staff and visitors must pass through. Two more will be used at the main elementary building and at the elementary annex for staff and visitors only.
The metal detectors could be in use as early as next month, Persing said, adding that district parents will be notified ahead of time.
One other security measure on the horizon is a restriction on backpacks. Though not yet adopted, Persing said the school board is considering new policy making it mandatory that all backpacks be see-through. He said it would make the process smoother at the metal detectors. That policy could be adopted by the summer, he said.