Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

March 29, 2014

Mercer schools officials examine safety practices

PRINCETON — Mercer County school officials are looking at safety measures after a local woman allegedly entered a high school and sold marijuana to a juvenile.

Calia Marie Finley, 23, of Princeton was arrested Thursday 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. She allegedly entered a women’s restroom at PikeView High School and sold marijuana to a 15-year-old juvenile, Trooper First Class J.A. Cook with the West Virginia State Police Princeton detachment said after the arrest.

The alleged drug sale took place March 12. School officials contacted the state police after learning about the incident. Finley was sent to the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver on a $15,000 surety bond.

“We’re still looking into it,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Turner said Friday. “We’re doing a follow up, to see if anything else is to be learned from this.” He declined to say more about the case because the state police are still investigating it.

“To my understanding, this is still in the court system,” he said. “We don’t want to say anything that would compromise the case.”

Mercer County schools all have signs informing visitors that they must report to the main office, Turner said.

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

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

Greg Prudich, president of the Mercer County Board of Education, said the school system has to weigh making public schools accessible to parents and guardians of students without taking extreme measures and creating a prison atmosphere.

“How far do you go?” Prudich asked.

In one example, parents at Montcalm Elementary School wanted to put a buzzer on the school’s front door, but there was no awning to keep visitors out of the weather until somebody could answer the door, Prudich said. Parents said to put in the buzzer, and they would rather put up with being in the weather.

No measures can guarantee keeping an intruder out, he added.

“You and I know a determined assailant can get into a building,” Prudich said. “You can only make it so safe.”

The board of education has discussed issuing student identification badges, but this presents another set of challenges.

“Then you get students who don’t want to wear them, hide them in their clothes, and how much information do you put on them? If I could copy one of those and I’m young enough, I could do what that girl (at PikeView High) did every day,” Prudich said.

New school such as Oakvale School and PikeView Middle School, along with the design for the future replacement to Ceres School have this feature: Visitors must go through the front office before getting into the school, he said. With this design, the woman who alleged entered PikeView High School could not have entered the main school without going through the office. Older schools were not designed with this feature.

‘We certainly don’t want drug deals in our schools, but how much are we willing to pay for and how much do we want to lock down our buildings?” Prudich asked. “If the public wants to support and pay for security guards at the front door, metal detectors, and be asked why you are here before you come through the front door, it can be done, but it cost money. So do we give up teachers, stop athletics, and quit fixing buildings? Where do we get the money? Is that what people really want in our schools? I don’t, but if the public does, we’ll talk about it.”

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