Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Editorials

April 2, 2014

School safety: Mercer should review policies

— — School officials in Mercer County must take another look at their existing school safety measures after a troubling lapse in school security.

A woman walked into PikeView High School — apparently unnoticed and unstopped by school officials — and sold marijuana to a juvenile inside the school. The alleged drug deal occurred in the women’s bathroom. The incident has raised concern, and rightfully so, by parents who question how such an incident could have happened l.

The alleged drug sale took place March 12. School officials contacted the West Virginia State Police after learning about the incident. A 23-year-old Princeton woman was arrested last week and charged with delivery of a controlled substance, contributing to the delinquency of a minor and distribution by a person 18 or over in or on school property.

School officials say they will review existing security policies — and they should.

“We’re still looking into it,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Turner said last week. “We’re doing a follow up to see if anything else is to be learned from this.”

Turner says all Mercer County schools have signs informing visitors that they must report first to the main office when entering a school. And new schools such as Oakvale School and PikeView Middle School, along with the design for the future replacement to Ceres School, already require visitors to go through the front office before getting into the main school grounds. With this design, the woman who allegedly entered PikeView High School could not have entered the main school without going through the office first. However, older schools were not designed with this feature.

“There has to be a reason for someone to be in the building,” Turner adds. “No one that doesn’t have authorization is allowed to walk in the building.”

Turner says school personnel know that doors to the outside must remain shut, and they watch for people who do not belong in the buildings. Some schools have a system in which personnel have to “buzz” visitors into the office. There have also been discussions at board of education and administrative meetings about extending this system to other schools.

Board of Education President Greg Prudich says the challenge faced by school officials is weighing what it takes to make schools safe while also accessible to parents and guardians of students. He correctly notes that school officials do not want to create a prison atmosphere.

Neither do we. But lessons should be learned from last week’s security lapse. And a careful review of existing school safety measures is certainly merited. The school system must strive to ensure that students are not only safe, but also provided an environment that is conducive to learning. And a school is no place for a drug deal to occur.

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