Looking at improving school safety, Brandywine Heights School Board discussed hiring a private security company.
“Do we have a problem? No, and I’d just as soon as not have one,” said Superintendent Dr. Martin Handler.
“We’re talking about a serious situation, a serious confrontation, it is not predictive,” said Handler at a recent meeting. “It’s not a problem that we’re trying to solve, it’s a service that we would like to have available to prevent a problem.”
Brandywine parent Renee Keeler, of Mertztown, felt having a security officer would be a deterrent to weapons being brought into the school.
“If you go to the doctor for a checkup... for preventative measures to save your lives, I think this would save our children’s lives in the event of an emergency,” said Keeler.
Another Brandywine parent Michael Dunning, Mertztown, was for having protection but wanted the board to be within the budget.
Brandywine School Board President John Sheetz said administration has been trying to get a security resource officer into the district for the last three years.
“Our goal here is to maintain the educational environment while providing a protection service to the district which will include the students, the staff and the guests to the district... and not have the appearance of a prison or correctional facility,” said Jarrod Emes, director of security for KRE Security/Investigations in Hamburg.
Handler also noted that KRE would not only provide guard services, but also counseling services, getting involved in their SADD team, security resource to upgrade the district security plans.
KRE’s proposal would be for a security officer who is either a retired or active police officer, who is fully certified, fully licensed.
“Who would be working for them and not us, and the prices would include all benefits, uniforms, weaponry,” said Handler.
He noted that KRE has provided security for Brandywine’s events for about 7 to 9 years. “So we have a relationship with them.”
The proposal includes a 20 percent reduction in the district’s hourly rate for events coverage. The district paid $6,200 in events security last year, noted Handler.
Not a formal bid, Handler asked that the discussion be general and not include specific financial information.
“The pricing we have from KRE is all inclusive,” said Handler, who had previously suggested to the board that the district hire their own school resource officer. “One of the problems that drove up the potential cost for hiring our own officer is that they would have to be part of the state pension system. KRE would be responsible for all benefits.”
Handler said if the board decides to move forward, the district would draw up a contract with KRE which would spell out the specifics and district school safety policy would be created.
“Really the only difference between us having a police officer and a security officer is this person would not have the power to arrest, but the power to detain until law enforcement would arrive,” said Handler.
For the officer to have the power to arrest, the courts would need to be petitioned.
Jim Wilson of KRE said there are levels of detainment, dictated by the situation, from verbal to lethal.
“And lethal is absolutely the last resort,” added Emes.
Emes said KRE would be governed by the laws.
“With bringing in an officer with 25 to 30 plus years of experience, they’re very well-rounded and experienced with that contingency plan and how to act in that situation,” said Emes. “They’re very well seasoned officers.”
Emes noted that legal consultation for both parties would be involved in the contract negotiations.
The proposal is both for an armed and unarmed officer, Handler recommended the officer be armed.
KRE is not currently providing this service to any other district, but Emes said there have been several inquiries regarding their proposal due to recent events.
Emes said KRE assisted the district regarding an incident at the high school a few years ago.
Also, KRE provided the district with unarmed security during the day when the district experienced bomb threats four years ago, said Handler.
Where security would be located (patrolling hallways and cafeteria for example) and what security would be doing, such as escorting, would be all determined by the contracted agreement, said Wilson.
Emes said they would also review and develop emergency plans, to improve the environment in the district.
The discussion for hiring a security company is moving forward. School Board members agreed to direct administration to develop a job description, write a security policy and determine how hiring a security company would be funded.
Handler said the agreement would start the last three months of the school year through the following school year, and the district would reevaluate the contract.