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Armed guards protecting many schools in our area this year

Many school districts spent the summer beefing up their security teams ahead of the new school year.

HANOVER TOWNSHIP, Pa. — No phones, no fights, no bullying, and most importantly, no one entering the school who shouldn't be there — that's the goal this school year in the Hanover Area School District.

"There's not going to be a building in this district that does not have an armed guard at the main entrance," said Hanover Area Superintendent Nathan Barrett.

The district has created its own police department. That's a big security upgrade from the hall monitors that were in charge of keeping students safe.

Barrett says those hall monitors were doing far more than they signed up for.

"Last year, us and every other district superintendent I had spoken to had these violent episodes happening in the building — fighting, and brutal fights. Bottom line was, we just need somebody here from a force standpoint to say, 'We're in control here, not you.'"

The violence also led to another change in the district — a zero tolerance, no cell phone policy. Barrett says bullying had gotten out of control.

"These students are taking pictures of students eating, what they're dressed in, and they provide ridicule all day."

But the first thought from many parents when they heard that was, "How will I get in touch with my kid if there's an emergency, like a lockdown?"

The district is working with the company Crimewatch to create a custom app that will allow the police and the school to provide real-time updates directly with parents.

"It's a dual app that is run, not only by us but by our police department, so they're giving up-to-the-minute updates as to how the emergency response team is here, where the students are staging. So it's a really neat app, and the only reason that I went forward with the elimination of the cell phones policy was that if I had this type of replacement to communicate with parents," Barrett said.

The Dallas School District is beefing up its security team as well. The district has two school resource officers. Three more guards from a private detective agency are joining to patrol the grounds.

Dallas Superintendent Thomas Duffy isn't ruling out the possibility of adding more in the future.

"We'll see. I mean, our approach has always been all hands on deck. So we'll evaluate the start of the school year and how the implementation process is working."

Brand-new director of operations Jake Sholtis says having armed guards at schools is just par for the course these days.

"It's modern education. It's the standard. Dallas isn't unique in what they're doing. All schools are moving in that direction, from the private agencies to more collaboration with local police departments, because if you don't have safety, you can't do your job, which is to educate the students."

Likely the most notable security boost in our area comes from the Scranton School District, where 20 armed guards will patrol school buildings in the city, in addition to the district's current resource officers. 

See more stories about heading back to school on WNEP's YouTube channel.

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