DuBOIS — While receiving the acknowledgement and recognition for being the 28th top school in Pennsylvania is rewarding, School Police Officer in Charge Janice Bart said the DuBois Area School District does not stop there.
“Our children are our best and biggest resource, and the safety here is imperative,” Bart said. “We continue to evaluate, debrief, analyze and improve. You have to be prepared for the unexpected. We are constantly having these discussions and conversations about safety.
“As cliché as it may sound, I do know that the officers are some of the best around, and I see them impacting lives for the better inside our schools making differences of positive relationships while teaching leadership skills,” Bart continued. “Ultimately, this gives kids confidence, and for me, that is important. I hope that I, also, being a female am empowering young children to be all they can be.”
The 2018 list of the 30 safest school districts in Pennsylvania is based on rankings compiled by niche.com. No other school district in the Tri-County Area ranked in the top 100. Curwensville Area School District was ranked 101.
The ranking is based on rigorous analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Education along with millions of reviews from students and parents, according to the Niche website. The districts were ranked based on analysis of a variety of factors, including surveys of parents and students, expenses per student, absenteeism, suspensions, expulsions, law-enforcement referrals and school-related arrests.
Data was drawn from the Civil Rights Data Collection and the National Center for Education, according to Niche.com’s explanation of its methodology. Niche reported the following about the DASD, which has a total of 3,704 students: Student/teacher ratio: 13:1; spending per student: $12,894; and ranked nationally: #201.
Bart said the DASD has established a strong protective and “progressive” school police program that not only works on school safety but addresses the entire community safety, around the clock.
The Retired Pennsylvania State Police Troopers that are now DuBois School Police employed in the buildings are armed and come from a wide range of experience that benefits the program, Bart said.
For example, one officer spent more than 20 years as a Special Emergency Response Team with PSP. Another was a forensic investigator and polygraph examiner.
“In addition, some of our members have specialized training as criminal investigators or specialized in traffic investigations, community service and were bus and garage inspectors. But most of all, it is the team approach,” Bart said.
The success of the program has been supported with “incredible” working relationships with the local law enforcement community all doing their part, Bart said.
The school police work closely with the Jefferson and Clearfield County District attorneys, and especially appreciate the support of the outside local law enforcement: DuBois City PD, Sandy Twp PD, Reynoldsville Borough PD, PSP, The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and Homeland Security, Clearfield and Jefferson County Emergency Management Departments.
“It is noted that communications is one of our strong suits. In a day’s times, officers communicate with students and have conversations about their day,” Bart said. “This is important part of the proactive step with building positive relationships and also acting as a mentor and good role model. Additionally, officers communicate to the proper resource to make sure that inner and outside of school supportive agencies can work on the needs that students and families may need, directing attention for any mental health and anger management.”
“It isn’t just about what happens inside the school halls, because if it is being brought into school, it is occurring after school, outside the buildings and in our community,” Bart said. “Thus, it is important for that we use a proactive approach addressing concerns, warnings and issues rather than being reactive to a situation. And we are lucky to have such a great community of people and resources to work together to improve the quality of life and safety for everyone.”
Another credit of this achievement that Bart is proud of is that she recognizes that every staff member is working hard each day.
“Our school’s front door secretarial staff has a lot of responsibilities, yet one of the most important is addressing the caller at the front door entry,” she said. “It starts at the top and every member on down is just as important. Many times, it is our custodians that notice something suspicious that needs attention. I am grateful for all the eyes of the school district.”
SPOs are at each of the DASD school buildings during the day inclusive of Jeff Tech Vocational, in Reynoldsville. Bart noted the following facts about the SPOs:
- Having experienced retired PSP troopers now as school police officers, each with 25 plus years’ experience of law enforcement that is armed each day in every one of the school buildings.
- That the biggest strength is working in an approach of being proactive instead of just reactive: and that throughout the year, they work on additional safety issues with students such as: Traffic safety, internet safety, drug awareness and being a responsible good productive citizens of great character.
- That armed officers activity participate inside the schools with lockdown drills and fire drills, but yearly participate in active shooter training, and continue with other training.
- That at DAHS, SPOs utilize safety screening devices for the purpose of searching for weapons on students, in backpacks or with visitors before they are free to visit their intended part of the building. And that all other buildings have portable safety screen wands.
- SPOs participate in outside communications of a restricted network for active law enforcement dedicated to reducing school violence and promoting a quicker response time to school intruders, across the country.
- Officer Dennis McFadden at the high school has also established a communications network of School Police Officers across the state that provides a support and resource to other schools and communities.
- Proactive relationships with students: Mentoring in the buildings all day, so can see if someone is off, upset or needs the support of counselors/special education.
- Officers continue to provide a vital and additional education piece: internet safety programs, drug awareness, bicycle, traffic and gun safety.
- The program has added an advanced element with impact at the elementary level – where children are the most vulnerable.
- Officers train for hostile intruders, active shooters, use emergency 911 radios, metal detectors, have strong Memorandum of Understandings with outside agencies, and have protocols in place.
Bart provided the following recommendations for adults with students in the household:
- Communicate with the child.
- Discuss issues with school counselors and principals.
- Identify problems and accept resources and help.
- Follow through with recommendations.
- Help the child have healthy relationships and take ownership.
- Check a child’s belongings and backpacks.
- Help the child prepare for the school day the night before to bring only the necessary objects to school.