the superintendent revealed to a newspaper that a safety plan involved students hiding under bleachers, that information would enable someone wishing to do harm to know to target the bleachers.
He did say the main training happening for students and teachers is in how to deal with a threat in their current school environment. Crestwood, as are many districts, are teaching children “run, hide, and fight,” based on the situation. Run and hide is always the best option, Gorham said, with fight coming as a last resort.
Drills will take place a few times a year with all students, and parents will be notified before those drills happen. Gorham again stressed that “situational awareness” is key and different variables can affect how to react to different situations. He gave the example of running out certain doors if there is a fire, but the need to change the plan if using those doors isn’t feasible. “Smart people survive if they assess their situation. Getting a child to think about that just may make a difference,” he said.
The district also plans on holding an information session in the future, for parents, to enlighten them on how Crestwood will keep their children safe and how to relate to their children about emergency or threat situations. “We want to empower our parents and our community,” Gorham related.
Another ongoing discussion within the district is the assessment of Crestwood’s buildings, which are decades old and built in a time where school violence and outside threats were not an issue. Gorham noted at past school board meetings that considerations are being made as whether to continue to repair and revamp old buildings or to start over.
Meanwhile, Mountaintop police officers are trained to know the ins and outs of Crestwood’s school buildings, a knowledge that can help them in threat situations. Every year, Engler explained, the officers’ training is updated, to prepare them for threats in the schools. In December of 2005, when classes were closed for Christmas break, an extensive active shooter training course was also held at Crestwood, led by the Lackawanna County SWAT Team. Police officers from all over the area practiced, in an intense two-day session, how to move through the Crestwood secondary campus, learning to clear rooms and confront perpetrators.
Police are also involved whenever a threat involving Crestwood or its students is made, no matter how trivial it may seem. Twice this year, including in late February, the Wright Township Police worked with district officials to investigate disturbing comments made on social media. The earlier comment was a vague threat and the latter was not a specific threat, but, airing on the side of caution, the district still chose to investigate.
Gorham explained of the February incident that a student made a comment that had a concerning tone. But, he stressed, “At no time was there an actual, real threat. It was a vague statement that wasn’t about harming others.” Social media was monitored by police and the district for days, both Gorham and Engler said, before the issue was resolved through the district.
“My response is the maximum penalty,” Gorham related. “I will not tolerate any threat.” He went on that social media is often a source of misinformation, where rumors and fear can be spread. He advised that people, especially when emotional, should pause before they post anything on social media and think about whether it will make a situation worse.
Engler, too, said that social media drama often results in the police and district wasting time, as the agencies work to ensure the safety of the schools. But, he said, no threat of any manner should be ignored. “People should stay vigilant, we’re open here 24/7,” the chief said. “If there’s any concerns, don’t take them lightly. Give us a call. We investigate everything. We don’t take things lightly.”
Gorham concluded about the topic of school violence and security, “Emotional and fiery rhetoric is not going to solve this problem. Choosing sides politically will not solve this problem…There’s no one answer. But calmly and creatively and logically having discussions and making decisions is how we’re going to solve it.”