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Mon BOE mulls school violence concerns

Eddie Campbell Jr. may have stopped just short of saying it, during a meeting of the Monongalia County Board of Education last week.

Metal detectors.

Campbell is the superintendent of schools in the county, overseeing the 12,000 or so students publicly enrolled here.

Nearly 40 minutes of that meeting was taken up by a discussion of school security and student safety, after deadly shootings at a high school in suburban Detroit the week before.

Ethan Crumbley, 15, will be tried as an adult for murder in that case after police said he shot four classmates to death while wounding six more, including a teacher.

In an unprecedented legal maneuver, his parents have also been charged with manslaughter.

Prosecutors said they didn’t do enough to help their emotionally troubled son. The semiautomatic handgun used in the assault was reportedly an early Christmas present.

Charges against the administration of Oxford High School may also be forthcoming, they said.

While the student and alleged shooter was flagged for his behavior and brought in for a quick counseling session with the school and his parents, he was still allowed to return to class for two reasons – he had never been in trouble before and his parents refused to take him home early.

Minutes after that session, with a hallway full of students changing classes, he emerged from a restroom and started firing, witnesses said.

A week ago Friday in two restrooms at Morgantown High School, meanwhile, two bits of graffiti whose author, or authors, wrote: “I’m-a shoot up the school,” were spied.

Administrators at MHS, plus Campbell and his colleagues in the district office, began scouring video while scrambling patrol units of the Morgantown Police Department, who cruised the Wilson Avenue campus and surrounding South Park neighborhood.

The district also placed MHS, plus University High and Clay-Battelle on a “working lockdown” of sorts, which meant bolted classroom doors and minimal hallway traffic.

Twenty-nine (and counting?)

Campbell said the directive, which also carried over to Mon’s middle schools, will remain, indefinitely, for now, even though police, as he recounted to BOE members, deemed the threats non-credible.

The consequences, though, he said, will be quite credible, if MHS or the district finds out who was involved.

Suspension, the superintendent said.

Prosecution, to the fullest degree.

“We take this very seriously,” he said.

The district, though, is also taking the most recent incidents at MHS as copycat threats, based on the investigation by local police.

Frazzled moms taking to Facebook and other outlets aren’t helping, board member Ron Lytle said.

If social media is part of the climate, though, countered MHS parent Brandie Miles, so too are school shootings.

Miles, whose daughter is a freshman at the school on Wilson Avenue, addressed the board during the public comment portion of its meeting this past Tuesday – and also organized a mini-rally in front of the district’s Morgantown offices that following Friday.

Gun violence in schools is an unhappy byproduct of life in America these days, she said, where lock-and-load responses to stress, or threats thereof, always seem to be the rule.

While Monongalia County’s school district has dodged that shadow thus far, Miles doesn’t want to be complacent about a national crisis, she said.

“I don’t really care if the chances of something happening are small, the stakes are extremely high,” she told the board. “There have been 29 school shootings this year.”

Go ask ALICE

Much like coal mining disasters in West Virginia, where single names make up a grim shorthand where those disasters occurred, so too are school shootings in America.


Sandy Hook.


And, countless others.

Donna Talerico, Mon’s deputy superintendent of schools, says she and her colleagues across the district and in the central office know all about the stressors on students and households here.

The local district, she says, already has a number of measures in place for students’ emotional health, not to mention the literal life-savers, should a school shooting happen here.

ALICE training, an active-shooter tactic, was heralded as saving the lives of Oxford High students who huddled during the rampage.

It stands for: Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate.

“We’ve been doing ALICE training in this county for years,” Talerico said.

While the drills fell off at the height of the pandemic, the deputy superintendent said the training is about to resume in full in classrooms here.

There are also those emotional points, too, she said.

School counselors. Class-discussion prompts, especially on school violence.

“Sometimes, it is just learning how to cope with the society we’re all living in that promotes so much fear, so much distrust, all those things.”

And – most notably, she said – depression screening.

“The idea for us is to try to find, and help, those students who might be troubled.”

What shall not be named …

Which brings it back to metal detectors – which Campbell did not voice Tuesday night.

Miles and other parents on the Morgantown High Facebook group are in favor.

BOE member Sara Anderson, who is also an early childhood educator at WVU, isn’t a fan, but she brought it up because parents have been talking to her about it, she said.

As a point, the Safe Schools entrance at MHS was designed for the installation of metal detectors after the fact, if so deemed by the board.

Campbell, as said, may have alluded to that during his summation.

“Board members, I’ll mention that, administratively, we’ve begun to explore some increased security measures,” he said.

Lytle interrupted him with a rueful chuckle.

“Don’t say too much.”

“I’m not,” the superintendent responded. “I’m gonna leave it at, ‘increased security measures.’”

However, he’s not leaving anything behind, he said.

“We’ll be bringing some of those discussions to you, to get your feedback, as we move forward.”

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