While he acknowledged that Friday's tragedy in Newtown, CT, has sped up the process, Superintendent Dr. Randal A. Lutz said on Wednesday that an increased police presence at Baldwin-Whitehall School District buildings this week is due to his desire to have a strong, lasting relationship with local law enforcement.
As part of their ordinary patrols, armed police officers are appearing near and inside of the district's five public schools more often this week than they have in recent memory.
The Baldwin Borough Police Department is patrolling McAnnulty and W.R. Paynter elementary schools, while the Whitehall Police Department patrols Whitehall Elementary, J.E. Harrison Middle and Baldwin High schools.
"Of course, the events of last Friday have caused everyone to look at what they're doing and see where their strengths are and what any concerns may be in the area of security," Dr. Lutz said. "That's something that we've always been trying to do, but I'd be naïve to say that, when you have something like this occur, it doesn't increase and ramp up your vigilance."
However, Lutz also said that, dating back to his time as the principal of J.E. Harrison Middle, he has been a strong proponent of local police officers and school employees—particularly building principals—having an established familiarity with one another and their surroundings, regardless of recent events.
"In a time of need, that principal—that's the key communicator," Lutz said. "So we need to make sure that we have those open lines of communication back and forth."
Police officers, like other visitors to district schools, must check in at the buildings' main offices/security desks.
"I welcome them into the building," Lutz said of the officers. "I think it's great to see that presence.
"I want that presence to continue. To me, it's not a short-range thing. It (the Newtown incident) may have prompted something to happen a little quicker than otherwise was happening, but it's (the police presence is) a good thing. And I'm very much in support of it.
"This should not be an event. This should be more of a practice."
Lutz said that his welcoming attitude extends to officers of either borough, whether they're visiting a school within their jurisdictions or not.
Lutz could not say whether or not the high level of police activity at district schools this week will continue in future weeks, but he did say that he would like it to. The amount of staffing made available by the local police departments would determine that more than anything.
School district money is not being used to fund the increased police presence.
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