Like many states across the nation, Pennsylvania is taking action to improve school security and campus safety.
On May 2, Governor Tom Wolf announced $40 million in school safety grants, plus $7.5 million in community violence prevention and reduction grants. Wolf believes the grants will "increase safety for our children and our teachers and prevent violence in classrooms and communities.”
About three-fourths of that sum, which is being distributed to 234 different schools and 25 communities, will be used to finance security planning and the purchase security-related technology, including advanced video cameras, visitor identification systems, communications equipment, and electronic locks.
Funds will also be used to implement risk assessments, violence-prevention initiatives, conflict resolution, and dispute management, according to the various approved school proposals.
In devoting significant resources to keep its students safe, Pennsylvania is following the lead of large states such as Florida, Massachusetts, and Michigan, which have all handed out large security grants since the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in early 2018 drew heightened attention to the dangers schools face.
Sen. Wayne Langerholc, Jr., a member of Pennsylvania’s School Safety and Security Committee, applauded the efforts taken thus far — although he believes there is still a lot more work to be done.
"This $40 million will provide some much-needed assistance to ensure our schools are safe,” he said in a statement. “However, the total request from schools was $177.6 million, which illustrates that we must continue to fund this vital program.”
Rep. Jason Ortitay also stressed the need to find more funding for this vital initiative going forward. "The programs funded through these grants will make a difference, but we are not done,” he said. "We must evaluate what additional resources schools need."
Bellwood-Antis School District, which plans to invest in security-related technology and security planning, was among the largest individual recipients with a $628,000 grant.
The Selinsgrove Area schools also see technology as a critical component to improve safety. The district will use a large portion of its $440,000 grant on video camera surveillance as well as a door alarms and access system in order to have more visibility and protection of all entry points.
"The system will allow us to better monitor every exterior door and have an alarm sound if a door is opened for any reason,” area superintendent Chad Cohrs told the local New Castle News. "Additional cameras will be installed to cover all doors."
Overall, 25 different grant applicants received awards of at least $350,000, including Millcreek Township, which plans to use its $386,000 grant to implement a new county-wide violence prevention project.
Mount Union Area School District was also awarded some $299,000 for a wide range of programs and Keystone Central School District got $250,000 to achieve its technology and security planning-focused objectives.
To discover how Verkada's video security solution diffused a potential on-campus threat, read customer story featuring Dan Layton, CTO of Zionsville Community Schools.