Security firm will evaluate safety of Albion campus

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 3 December 2019 at 4:15 pm

District wants time to consider metal detectors, added safety measures

Photo by Tom Rivers: Kathy Harling, president of the Albion Board of Education, said the district is evaluating its response to a threat at the Albion Middle School, and is bringing in a firm to look at the security of the campus and the district’s procedures in responding to threats.

ALBION – School leaders will meet with a security firm on Dec. 16 that is offering to do a safety assessment of the district campus, including a review of school procedures in responding to threats.

Armoured One is based in Syracuse and has offered to do the assessment for free. The firm works with school districts, governments and businesses and focuses on preventing active shooter attacks.

The firm was recommended to Albion by King & King Architects in Syracuse, a firm that has helped design several recent security upgrades at Albion school entrances. Kirk Narburgh, an Albion graduate, is one of the leaders of King & King.

Tom Czyz, a former SWAT team operator and homicide detective, is Armoured One’s CEO. He will do a campus safety audit of Albion on Wednesday and then will meet with Albion school leaders on Dec. 16 in a closed-door session to discuss Albion’s security system and response.

Three middle school students from Albion were charged with second-degree conspiracy on Nov. 8 after an alleged plot to bring guns and explosives to the school to harm students and staff.

Those students have been suspended and their cases are being handled in Family Court.

During a community forum on Nov. 19, some parents asked the district to put metal detectors in the school.

Albion has reached out to the New York State School Boards Association, Erie 1 BOCES and other groups for information and policies about installing metal detectors.

The Albion Board of Education wants to review that information before discussing if metal detectors should be added at the school.

The NYS School Boards didn’t submit a policy from its organization, but offered some starting points in a discussion about the issue. NYSSBA urged Albion to have its attorney review a policy before it is adopted by the board.

Hand-held wand metal detectors can be used to search students’ book bags, purses and other personal belongings “in appropriate circumstances,” the group said.

Some districts use unscheduled random screenings that are effective in detecting and deterring possession of weapons. A district can do “as needed screenings” on days chosen to address particular safety concerns (such as recent violence in a neighborhood) or on days with special events (such as athletic competitions), NYSSBA said.

Some other suggestions to consider:

• Daily random screenings can involve searches of randomly selected segment of the entire student body attending a school.

• If a metal detector activation results in the discovery of contraband, such activation and discovery shall be timely documented in accordance with the District’s Code of Conduct, as well as applicable state laws and regulations.

• Districts can have metal detectors at entryways or with wands that take reasonable steps for student safety and also respects the Constitutional rights of students and visitors.

• School administrators can direct a search under “reasonable suspicion that weapons are or will be on school property.”

• Signs need to be posted to inform students and visitors entering the school that they are subject to a screening of weapons as a condition of entry.

• Schools don’t have to screen everyone to avoid delays and a backlog of people, but must screen on a predetermined random basis or allow predetermined number of people to enter without being screened, then resume screening all persons.

• “Under no circumstances may school officials single out a particular individual or individuals to be searched, unless there is reasonable suspicion to believe that such person or persons are in possession of a weapon.”

• With metal detectors, screening should be by school officials of the same sex as the individual seeking admission to the building. Scanning will not be done by “in-house” police officers except at the discretion of other police officers.

• Prior to screening, individuals will be asked to place bags, parcels or coats on a table and to remove any metal objects (which will set off scanner) from their pockets and place them in a tray. Bags, backpacks, parcels and coats will also be scanned.

• If the detector is activated while scanning a bag or parcel, some schools request the owner to open the bag or parcel and remove any remaining metal objects which set off the scanner. The school official will then to a second scan. If a second scan activates the scanner, a school official will then examine the contents for weapons. Reasonable efforts shall be made to protect student privacy by not emptying the contents of bags and backpacks in plain view of other students and visitors.

Groups warn against armed presence, metal detectors in schools

Albion is reviewing information from the American School Counselor Association, National Association of School Psychologists, School Social Work Association of America, National Association of School Resource officers, National Association of Elementary School Principals, and National Association of Secondary School Principals.

These groups say a comprehensive school-wide approach is needed with access to mental health support for children.

“We caution against seemingly quick and potentially harmful solutions, such as arming school personnel, and urge policy leaders to support the following guidance to enact policies that will equip America’s schools to educate and safeguard our children over the long term,” the groups said.

The advocate for fully integrated learning supports – behavioral, mental health and social services.

“Balance physical and psychological safety to avoid overly restrictive measures (armed guards and metal detectors) that can undermine the learning environment and instead combine reasonable physical security measures (locked doors and monitored public spaces) with efforts to enhance school climate, build trusting relationships, and encourage students and adults to report potential threats,” the groups stated. “If a school determines the need for armed security, properly trained school resource officers (SROs) are the only school personnel of any type who should be armed.”

Albion reached out to the Erie 1 BOCES for a policy on metal detectors, but Erie 1 does not have a policy on those.

Erie 1 sent a message to Albion, saying use of metal detectors is “a very complex issue involving searches and privacy issues.”

Metal detectors are very common at airports, courthouses and other public buildings, and are accepted “by and large” from the general population

Erie 1 said hand-held wand metal detectors can be used to search students’ book bags, purses and other personal belongings “in appropriate circumstances.”

Some districts use unscheduled random screenings that are effective in detecting and deterring possession of weapons, Erie 1 said in a message to Albion officials.

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