Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale Thursday said he will make “significant changes” to how his department reviews safety at schools.
“Given that my team has been reviewing school safety issues for more than a decade, now is an appropriate time to assess how we evaluate school safety and make changes where appropriate so that students can feel safe while they learn,” DePasquale said. “When it comes to the safety of students, teachers and staff, I am — and will always be v proactive.”
The department added a school safety component to its school reviews in 2006 following the Nickel Mines Amish School shooting.
“In the years since we began to look at school safety as part of our full school audits, we have found that schools are very receptive to our recommendations,” he said. “In particular, most schools have emergency preparedness plans in place that are constantly being reviewed and shared with first responders.
However, we still see areas where improvements are needed in school safety.”
DePasquale said the most common audit safety recommendations involve issues with visitor procedures, staff training, practice drills, building entrances/exits, communication and alarm systems, buses and parking and general building/ground security.
Auditors in the past have also found schools with a lack of single point of entry/exit, unlocked and unoccupied classrooms and other rooms, lack of annual practice drills involving first responders, school grounds not being patrolled, failure to provide annual training to staff, exterior doors not numbered, no alarm systems on exterior doors, no assigned staff and visitor parking, no directional signs to the office, delivery logs not maintained, central security alarm not active during school hours, play areas not protected with fencing and unrestricted vehicular access around play areas.
In the future, DePasquale said the department may start looking into how school construction and renovation is incorporated into school safety and expand the distribution of confidential school safety audits beyond the superintendent and resource officers to also include Pennsylvania State Police, the Pennsylvania attorney general and local police departments.