Judge: SASD can arm guards
SUNBURY - A county judge has given Shamokin Area School District permission to arm its security guards.
President Judge Robert B. Sacavage, however, told Superintendent James Zack, Solicitor James Zurick, school board Director Charles Shuey, security guard James Yost and attorney Ben Pratt that the district would have to provide training for active-shooter situations if the state does not provide it.
The move to arm three security guards hired in March is a preventative measure taken in response to December's deadly school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
"I assure the court that we are committed to the highest professional standards available," Shuey said during his testimony Wednesday morning. "We didn't come to this decision lightly."
The court appearance lasted approximately 45 minutes with Zack, Shuey and Yost providing brief testimony in support of arming the guards.
Zack explained board members and administration visited Hazleton Area School District, where the number incidents declined and students felt safer when armed guards were hired there.
Not having a security presence in school buildings leaves everyone defenseless, he said.
Each security guard is required to pass a background check, and they are also required to have mandatory lethal weapons training and necessary Act 235 training, which includes psychological training, they said.
Yost, a retired state police trooper, said he was trained to deal with school shooters, and the district representatives said they would make sure each of the employees have the same or similar training.
Sacavage said he had no questions about integrity or commitment of the district, but he wanted to ensure the proper training is in place if the state funding didn't come through.
Pratt said there is not a specific section in the district policy, but it can be amended.
Following the hearing, Pratt said guards could be armed whenever the district gives the word.
The other Shamokin security guards are Jerry Cavanaugh and Daniel Fanella, both former corrections officers. They and Yost are assigned to one of the three district school buildings.
The trio will carry Glock .40-caliber handguns, the same as local police officers.
In addition to the armed guards, the district also implemented backpack restrictions for all students and installed four metal detectors, which are for everyone in the middle/high school and visitors only in the elementary school.