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Pen Argyl schools, cops address 'active shooter' scenario

By Joe McDonald, WFMZ.com Reporter, news@wfmz.com
Published On: Jul 16 2013 10:15:42 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 17 2013 06:45:41 AM CDT
Pen Argyle School Board
PEN ARGYL, Pa. -

After two days of training, police officers will suit up in special gear Wednesday morning and return to the classrooms in the Pen Argyl Area School District, this time for a hands-on test on everyone’s worst nightmare: an “active shooter” inside a school.

About 30 police officers have been boning up on their skills since Monday, preparing for the simulation, Superintendent William Haberl told the school board at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“Tomorrow uses everything they’ve learned,” the superintendent said.

Haberl said Plainfield Township Police Chief Dean Ceraul organized the three-day program, which has included officers from Canada, Ohio and Maryland. After mentioning the matter to the school board, Haberl later declined to answer any questions about today’s exercise, saying it was not open to the public.

Haberl has said the school district has increased security at all its schools following the shooting that killed 26 people in December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn.

The issue of police presence in the school district has been sore point over the past several months. It surfaced when an internal memo was leaked from the Plainfield Township supervisors to the police department that ordered Ceraul and his 12 officers to stay away from Wind Gap Middle School, except when students are arriving or departing, or in an emergency.

The memo also warned that if the police were seen at the school at any other time, they would be suspended or dismissed.

Following a raucous meeting three months ago, the supervisors rescinded the memo. Haberl said he and Ceraul came up with a strategy, that included unscheduled walks through the schools to create a "perceived police presence."

Relations between the school district superintendent and the police

Haberl said the Sandy Hook killings last Dec. 14 changed the equation. He said he called Chief Ceraul and told him, "We've got to meet. … Everybody is on edge."

Haberl said "copycats" imitating Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza were a worry. "Teachers and kids were thinking about them in the halls."

The superintendent said he and Ceraul came up with a strategy that included unscheduled walk throughs to create a "perceived police presence" that would make it "too risky for the bad guys … and they would move on."