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Auditor General To Take Deep Dive Into School Safety Issues

Auditor General Eugene DePasquale.
AP Photo

(Harrisburg) -- In the wake of last month's shooting in Parkland, Florida, the state auditor general is expanding the scope of school districts audits in the hopes of improving safety.

Eugene DePasquale says his office will take a deep dive on the security procedures at all of the commonwealth's public schools.

Previously, districts that performed well financially and academically received less scrutiny. 

The auditor general's office has looked at safety measures as part of wider school audits for more than a decade. That practice started after the 2006 shooting at the Nickel Mines Amish School in Lancaster County.

The office says the most common audit safety recommendations involve issues with visitor procedures, staff training, practice drills, building entrances and exits, communication and alarm systems, buses and parking, and general building and grounds security.

He says no student should have to worry about their safety while in class. 

"The worry they should have is what is going to be on their exams that day, or what they're going to be doing after school, or what they're having for lunch," DePasquale said. "It should not be whether an armed lunatic is going to come into their school and be able to open fire."

He says his team will consult with experts on how to construct new schools and renovate older buildings to better protect students.

"Yes, there may be some cost up front on that, " DePasquale said. "But I would ask the parents, the taxpayers, and the students in Florida, would they have rather had that cost up front or afterwards?"

DePasquale is also hoping to get input from students. Anonymous tips can be made on the auditor general's website

DePasquale says previous audits have uncovered problems with security, but he didn't want to call public attention to it and possibly make the school a target. For a similar reason, he says he won't single out one school as a gold standard for safety. He will share best practices among school districts that need improvements. 

Results of future audits will be shared with the attorney general's office and state and local police, instead of just the district under review.

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