Lackawanna DA forms “Safe Schools Coalition”

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DUNMORE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Police and prosecutors are looking to increase school safety throughout Lackawanna County.

District Attorney Mark Powell, who just took office in January, announced a new “Safe Schools Coalition” Wednesday afternoon at Dunmore High School.

Its goal is to prevent and quickly respond to any type of school violence.

Another goal of the new group is to develop countywide policies and protocols for school safety and make sure every building has an armed police, resource or security officer.

Surrounded by police chiefs and school superintendents, Powell pledged to make schools in his county safer Wednesday.

“We want to have open communication because we can all learn from each other and we want to have uniformity so that all school districts are handling things in the best possible way,” Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell said.

The main objective will be making sure every school building in Lackawanna County has an armed police officer.

That may be a challenge especially in the Scranton School District which has a total of 18 buildings. There are currently school resource officers in the high schools and intermediate schools but none in the elementary schools right now.

“Hopefully within a year or two all of our schools, our elementary schools will have a SRO (School Resource Officer),” Scranton School District Superintendent Dr. Alexis Kirijan said. “If not, we’ll be able to rotate them and share them.”

Bryan McGraw, superintendent in the North Pocono School District, just added armed officers at his elementary schools this year.

He says many times districts feel like an “island” on their own so he welcomes this new coalition.

“It allows our districts to share ideas, some of the good things we’re going through and some of the problems we’re seeing,” Superintendent Bryan McGraw said.

In addition to focusing on safety, the Lackawanna County DA is also launching a pilot program called “Operation Prevention” at Dunmore High School to educate kids in grades 7-12 about the dangers of opioids.

“It’s good to be aware of it because it’s a big problem in our community so I think it’s good that they’re letting us know!” Dunmore eighth grade student Ciera Toomey said.

Through a new state law, Act 44, which was passed in June by state lawmakers, there is now $60 million available in grants to school districts to improve safety.

The new coalition plans to try and get as much of that money as it possibly can.

The first meeting of the new “Safe Schools Coalition” is expected to take place on October 4.

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