2009-10-01 / Local & State

Security Cameras In PA Schools Keep Eye On Pupils

By Tiffany Wright (SOMERSET) DAILY AMERICAN

SOMERSET, Pa. (AP) – Now that children are back to school, they may or may not realize that behind nearly every corner a camera is capturing their every move.

It is not uncommon for schools to have cameras and key locked doors to deter delinquent actions and unwanted visitors. It is an issue superintendents say is constantly reviewed and scrutinized throughout the school year.

“You definitely need to be proactive – whether you’re talking about hardware being installed for security purposes or procedures in place,’’ said Mark Bower, superintendent of the Rockwood Area School District in Rockwood, about 50 miles southeast of Pittsburgh and less than 20 miles north of the Maryland border.

Cameras are installed in Rockwood schools along with traditional key lock doors. While the cameras are fairly new, Bower admits other security technology could use an upgrade.

“We’ve recognized that the technology has become out of date and we need to make some improvements,’’ he said. “In our daily operations we’ve become aware of those things.’’

Rick Huffman, superintendent of the Windber Area School District near Johnstown, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, said administrators try to include a security update annually.

“It’s something that’s part of our yearly budget and we’re constantly addressing,’’ he said.

Windber schools have a fairly new security system with cameras and secure access to buildings.

“There’s always probably more advanced options, but we generally try to go on a cycled period of time to try to update the system. We rotate codes every year,’’ he said.

The Shanksville-Stonycreek district, also about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, is currently updating its camera system.

“Our cameras are older so we’re updating them and we’ll be able to check what’s going on from our laptop computers rather than go to one location,’’ superintendent Tom McInroy said. The outdoor cameras will have a night vision feature and school buses will be equipped with both forward and rear digital cameras.

When the time comes for upgrading systems, superintendents say the financial responsibility lies mostly with the district, without much state assistance. Bower said fewer financial resources are available than in the past.

“More money used to be available for security upgrades. Now it’s typically local funds,’’ Bower said.

McInroy said the best the district can do is try to save.

“At one time it was easy to get help. With the state budget the way it is, it’s more difficult,’’ he said. “We plan ahead and have a five and 10-year plan. We put money aside on a regular annual basis toward updating security. It’s something we’re very vigilant with. Safety has to come before everything. If kids aren’t safe they can’t be educated.’’

Some school district officials say they also rely on the help of state police, and the cooperation of school resource officers – law enforcement personnel stationed directly in schools.

Huffman said resource officers add an increased level of safety, in addition to the school’s close relationship with local police.

“We do drills and it’s just another layer of safety. We really have expanded the role of the school resource officer to make that a part of our security,’’ he said.

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