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Additional Security in Place at EA

Parents argue that district isn’t releasing all of the details of recent incidents

By Kristen Keleschenyi
The Tube City Almanac
October 14, 2021
Posted in: North Versailles Twp. News

Increased security and police presence are being utilized throughout the East Allegheny School District this week.

Early Tuesday morning, a threat of violence was made via social media against the junior-senior high school, officials said.

Although North Versailles Twp. police determined the threat had only minor credibility, the district is taking the additional measures to “ensure a safe school experience for all and hopefully alleviate some anxieties” parents and students are feeling, according to a statement posted on the district’s Facebook page from Jamie Griesbaum, district secretary, on behalf of Superintendent Alan Johnson.

Safety concerns were already high due to the number of fights that have taken place in the district, the most recent on Oct. 6, which involved several students in the high school main office and resulted in an injury to a staff member.

At Monday’s school board meeting, Johnson presented a graph showing information about the fights that have been recorded since the beginning of the school year.

District data indicates that seven fights, involving 28 students, have taken place at the junior-senior high school. At least three students may face charges from township police, and four students face expulsion hearings.

But some parents who spoke at the meeting said they think there have been more security incidents than the district is acknowledging.

They said they’ve heard about fights that aren’t being reported publicly, and argued that information being sent out to parents via emails and robocalls aren’t complete.

“The reports up there don’t include what weapons were used (or) how badly people were physically harmed and we’re all just trying to find the truth,” said Meredith Hazard, a mother of an 11th-grade student.

Johnson said the number of fights may be off “by one or two,” but that he otherwise stands by the data as presented. Incidents have varied in severity, he said, but have not been random.

“What’s been different about this year is that they [the fights] have been much more targeted,” Johnson said. “It has been groups of students working together to identify another group or another student that they have a beef with.”

Some parents were upset by a recent interview Johnson gave on KDKA radio. They felt the superintendent used language that implicated girls, Black students and low-income students as the cause of the problems within the district. Johnson said that was not his intention.

Jessica Trent, an EA graduate and mother of a current junior-senior high school student, said there are more Black students at the school now than when she attended, when she was one of very few.

She said the district is not keeping up with the changing demographics and cultural shifts.

“What are you doing to address that shift? What are you doing to address that change? What are you doing to prepare your staff, your security guards, your counselors to handle a change in population?”

Johnson said he will work with the school board and the administration to do what is necessary to curtail the violence.

He said he would like to revisit the current student code of conduct, establish student and parent advisory groups and promote better coordination between the North Versailles Twp. police and the school police officer.

Johnson would also like to see a limit to student cell phone use, which he said has been a large contributor to the problem this year. A policy to limit cell phone use will be a matter for the board, he said.

Kristen Keleschenyi is a freelance writer in North Versailles Twp. and one of the hosts of the Kristen & Amber Show on WMCK Internet Radio at 5 p.m. Saturdays, 9 p.m. Mondays and 4 p.m. Thursdays. She may be reached at kbishop25@hotmail.com.

Originally published October 14, 2021.

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