Thursday, April 7, 2022

PA: In Erie, School Shooting Followed By Teacher Walkout

On Tuesday (4/5) at 9:30 AM, the school day at Erie High School was interrupted by a shooting. Several shots were fired within the building, with one person injured. There was, of course, a lockdown (more about that in a moment) and a hefty police response.

The shooting was described as "an isolated, targeted incident." These days, I guess, it's good-ish news if a school shooting is committed by one student with a particular beef with another student, and not some sort of grandiose attempt to terrorize the entire school. Yesterday, the shooter turned himself in.

School was canceled for the rest of the week, and next week is a regularly scheduled spring. The district announced that it will be working on a comprehensive plan to re-open safely. Said Superintendent Brian Polito, "The well being of our students and staff is and always will be our priority, and we will take every measure possible to ensure their safety and security."

Teachers, however, delivered a message today via a letter from their union: they will not be back in the building until safety issues are fixed; they will be teaching remotely. They included a list, and it's kind of mind-boggling.

The shooting prompted a lockdown--but what do you do if there's an active shooter lockdown and your classroom doors don't lock!

Listed concerns from the letter:

*Fully functioning locks on all interior doors to rooms in which a staff person is assigned, to include the ability to lock and unlock the door from within the room.
*Fully functioning locks on all exterior doors to the building.
*Fully functioning communication devices for every staff person (i.e. walkie talkies, phones, PA system, etc.)
*An increase in security and/or police presence in highly visible and well-trafficked areas.
*The installation of fully functioning metal detectors. Until that can be accomplished, all students shall be scanned with handheld electronic devices which detect weapons.
*Clear, established procedures related to discipline and student behavioral interventions which are in writing and distributed to all staff. In addition, these procedures must be consistently applied and consistently enforced by all staff and administrators.
*Written instructions for student removal procedures, distributed to all staff.
*Fully functioning security cameras.
*All EEA members shall have access to the “Behavior” tab in Infinite Campus for every currently enrolled student at the High School.

These are the items on the "we're not coming back till these are done" list. There's a second "and we better get moving on these" list that includes things like staff training for emergency and crisis situations and security blinds. 

Erie has had more than its share of issues; it was just six years ago that the then-superintendent proposed closing the public high schools because they couldn't afford to run it any more. The city's district remains a poster child for charter-induced death spiral. So it's not the hugest surprise that they somehow haven't been able to put locks on classroom doors-- they've been spending money on marketing battles.

I cannot imagine what a huge gut punch it must be to learn that there is an active shooter in your building and at the same time to realize that you don't even have the fundamental things in place to protect your students and yourself. Particularly if you have already spent months and months trying to get those issues corrected. 

In an era in which educators and school personnel are warning of a rise in violence directed at them, it seems like having the ability to lock gunmen out of your room would be a pretty basic piece of infrastructure. Not only should a school be a safe place, but letting things get this bad invites over-correction and treating students like the enemy, which is also very bad news. Meanwhile, schools throughout northwest PA are practicing their lockdown drills this week. Here's hoping that Erie can sort things out by the time spring break is over. 

1 comment:

  1. I am thrilled to see the Association demand full access to student behavioral issues for staff members. The notion that only certain people - usually administration - get to know *and* determine need-to-know about kids who could cause problems based on some false interpretation of FERPA and confidentiality has always annoyed me.

    When I was a union rep, I tried several times to get language into contracts about informing staff of known issues. It never worked. I could not even get the administration to agree that one-on-one Ed Techs (as they are known in Maine) were to be invited to (and paid for) for IEP meetings.