Indiana, PA - Indiana County

White's school police bill approved

by The Indiana Gazette on July 02, 2014 11:00 AM

Legislation drafted by state Sen. Don White, R-Indiana, that will give certain school districts a say in who provides police service has received final legislative approval and will go to Gov. Tom Corbett for his signature.

The intent of Senate Bill 1194 is to improve safety in classrooms and reduce police response times in the event of an emergency. It gives private and public schools in municipalities covered by the Pennsylvania State Police the option to contract with municipal police departments from nearby jurisdictions for police coverage.

“A number of schools located in municipalities covered by (state police) are geographically within a short distance of local police departments,” White said in a press release.

“My legislation would allow school districts to contract for those services, which will enable additional response in emergency situations, as well as the opportunity for neighboring police departments to build relationships with school personnel and students in their nearby communities.”

One school district that would benefit from the bill is Indiana Area School District, which asked White to introduce the legislation.

Its request followed an unsuccessful attempt to have Indiana Borough police patrol all six of the district’s schools, regardless of whether they sit in White Township. The attempt failed because township and borough officials couldn’t agree on what state laws say about the jurisdictional matters involved in such an agreement.

Blairsville-Saltsburg and Homer-Center school districts, which also have the same problem, also were pushing White to introduce the bill.

“Many of our 500 school districts and many of Pennsylvania’s private schools do not have local police coverage immediately available and they would certainly benefit from the options provided by my bill,” White said.

Tom Harley, Indiana Area’s board president, said he is glad the bill was adopted.

“It gives rural school districts an option we didn’t have in protecting school children,” he said.

The bill is one of two school safety bills White introduced in November.

The other, Senate Bill 1193, would allow school staff to carry firearms. That bill, suggested by Indiana Area math teacher Mark Zilinskas and a few others, is before the education committee, where it has been since it was introduced.

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