MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) — Middletown elected officials, parents, and citizens stressed the importance of school safety at a school board meeting on Tuesday, April 4.
Emotions ran high at the meeting, with some people saying changes should have been made years ago.
“I cannot believe that we just witnessed a presentation for a $67 million building, and I’m begging you to spend a couple hundred thousand for safety,” Middletown Mayor Jim Curry said to the board.
Curry and Middletown resident Anthony Barilla are leading this effort to get more security in the districts’ schools.
“We had a gun in Middletown Middle School last year. If we would’ve had a metal detector, it would have stopped it,” Curry said.
Curry also wants armed security officials in every building. He said the school district once had an armed school resource officer, but the position was removed and replaced by an unarmed safety official, which he calls a “step backward.”
Many parents and community members agree.
“Please. I’m begging you. Please consider every measure possible to protect our children. With metal detectors, with armed guards. Whatever we need to do, we need to do it yesterday,” one woman said during the meeting.
“I don’t want to see Middletown get put on the board as another statistic for gun violence,” parent Rachele Silver said. “Either we go ahead and do something before it happens, or we become another statistic and Middletown gets known as yet again, the school district that reacts after a disaster.”
abc27 reached out to several other Midstate school districts. Many said they have school resource officers or other armed personnel on school grounds, including Steelton-Highspire, Lower Dauphin, Central Dauphin, Cumberland Valley and Camp Hill schools. The Harrisburg School District does not arm their safety monitors but is looking into having its own school police force.
“If you can’t do anything else, that’s the one thing you should definitely do,” Senator Mike Regan said.
Regan represents part of Cumberland and York counties and has been working for over a decade to get armed security in all Pennsylvania schools. Still, he gives school safety in the state a D grade.
“Of the school districts we have, the number who have not yet taken steps to do the right things is alarming,” Regan said.
Middletown is just one of them, and parents said if the board does not take action, they will.
“I will be registering to vote and I will be voting for any opponents of anyone who does not do anything to make any changes,” parent Rachele Silver said.
Mayor Curry told abc27 he plans to create a petition calling for security measure like metal detectors and armed security officers. He is working to gather 2,000 signatures to present to the board.
The Middletown School District did not respond to a request for an interview Wednesday, but Middletown Superintendent Chelton Hunter responded to the public comment during Tuesday’s meeting. He said maintaining a safe and secure learning environment is critical, but overly strict security measures can create fear and anxiety among students.