Consensus: Expand what’s working to prevent violence

MARK NANCE/Sun-Gazette Retired school teacher Rodney Morgans explains the complications of bringing metal detectors into the schools during the School Safety Town Hall at the Trade and Transit II Wednesday night. Says Mordan, "the biggest resource we have are parents" when it comes to solving the problem of school safety.

Build on what works in school to keep students, staff and visitors safe — that was the consensus during a discussion Wednesday night at the Trade and Transit Centre II on how to make schools as safe as they can be.

The hot topic was spurred on after a rash of shootings and violence in and around school and college campuses.

With about 30 people in attendance for the event, organized by the Williamsport/Lycoming County Crime Commission, it was an engaging conversation, with experts in law enforcement offering their viewpoints and the people in the room making suggestions, such as watching for warning signs, reporting any suspicious activities immediately and seeking grant funding for additional security resources.

Rodney Morgans, a retired teacher who spent 21 years working in the Williamsport Area School District, viewed investment of money in metal detectors, for example, as not practical, especially with a student body of 800 to 1,000 students entering and exiting multiple school doors, many at the same time of day.

He noted the 19-year-old who killed 17 people at a Parkland, Florida, high school did not arrive at the start of the school day.

Instead of setting up metal detectors, it would be better to invest in social workers, mentors and guidance counselors — adults whom students can trust and to whom they can express their fears or problems, he said.

William Weber, chief Lycoming County detective, who spent six years teaching D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) and had been a city police officer,

also said Williamsport Area School District officials are doing what they can to make schools safe environments, inside and outside of the buildings.

He also offered a suggestion to Mayor Gabriel J. Campana — who seeks such ideas because he said he never wants to go before the media in a school shooting incident — to hire more school resource officers. They not only provide security but also offer other kinds of assistance, such as being someone to look up to, serving as a mentor and being engaged in student and parent activities that are designed to make the school districts safer.

Chelsea Cramer, an art teacher at Cochran Primary School, said there is a need for grandparents to serve as mentors in the schools.

“We need more love in the classroom,” she said.

“We need as a community to come together collectively to find what is the best means for us to make safety for our schools” a priority, according to Ron James, executive director of the Williamsport/Lycoming County Crime Commission.

“The power is with the people,” he said. “If we don’t put that to use, then we aren’t doing our jobs.”