Preston Mitchell 0

Altoona Area School District Security

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Hello, my name is Preston Mitchell. I am a concerned junior at Altoona Area High School. I do not feel our school district is taking my safety, the safety of my classmates, our teachers, and school staff seriously. I appreciate the current measures taken regarding visitor protocols, however, it is not enough.

I wish to address the AASD school board with my concerns, as well as the concerns of my classmates, with a letter outlining realistic security measures. I would like to present this petition, along with my letter, to show I am not alone in my concerns or my ideas.

Dear AASD School Board Members,

The Altoona Area School District must take more effective measures to protect the students. I am a student of the Altoona Area High School. I can state I do not feel safe in my school. I am not here to argue legislative laws, I am here to speak about what measures we can take to ensure my safety and the safety of my classmates, my teachers, and our school staff.

When considering safety measures, I do not feel the solution should be based on economical or financial reasons. There is no cost that can be assigned to a life. In all the discussion that has taken place within our school district among this board, the staff, and the teachers no one has asked the students for their input. I feel this is a huge error. In researching the history of school shootings, most Jr. High & Sr. High school shootings are by students or recent former students who blend in. As in the case of the Parkland tragedy, the shooter took advantage of the protocols for an active shooter and exploited the weaknesses in that program. I can only guess that students were not consulted either when these protocols were put into place.

I feel the following measures can enhance the safety of our high school.

1. We need to have trained security personnel and/or guards at all open entry points of our school. The staff/volunteers currently tasked with overseeing entry points into our school are not trained. They would be ineffective in encountering someone with a weapon.

2. Searches may be tedious but they are also very affective. We as a student body need to go through the metal detector upon arrival. Again, I reiterate that majority of school shootings are done by students of the school. I also respect that costs are associated with upgrading or adding metal detectors, however, our safety is paramount to any costs.

3. A collective body of students, teachers, staff and emergency responders need to be involved in any discussions regarding school safety. Students can provide tremendous insights to vulnerabilities of our schools. Who better to consult on any weaknesses than those who take advantage of them daily.

4. Limiting access to the buildings before and during school. Currently there are numerous doors that are not locked during the school day. Students access these all the time to gain entry between the A & B buildings because it is quicker than walking the bridge to get between buildings.

5. Accommodating my previous statement with a change in school hours. Allowing students more time to get to classes so short-cuts that jeopardize our safety are not needed. This may add an extra 15 minutes to our days. Is your life worth 15 extra minutes?

6. Active Shooter drills. Are we truly prepared? If I am in the gymnasium, the cafeteria, my English class or walking in the hall, I have no idea what the safest course of action is if I hear gunshots.

It is time we take our safety seriously. We are not interested in ‘feel good’ measures. I’m sure the students, teachers, staff and parents of Parkland, Sandy Hook, and Columbine never thought such tragedy could happen at their school. We cannot have a false sense of security because we live in Altoona, PA. Evil has no boundaries.

Thank You.

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