The Indiana Area School District, in collaboration with Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Representative Jim Struzzi, and the Indiana County Tourist Bureau, will present a safety and security symposium on March 15 at IUP's Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex.

This event, free and open to the community, is designed to provide information to benefit all the stakeholders in the education community, offering resources to help prepare organizations to continue the discussion on safety and security in schools.

Presenters include experts from IUP and throughout the state, including representatives from the Office of Attorney General, Beard Legal Group, Pennsylvania State Police, 911 Emergency Operations Center, Safe2Say Something, Pennsylvania School Boards Association, the Pennsylvania Department of Education's Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN), and other community agencies.

Act 48 credits are available, and preregistration for the conference is required. The conference schedule and registration information are available online.

Mike Vuckovich and Timothy Runge

Indiana Area School District Superintendent Michael Vuckovich and Tim Runge, IUP Department of Educational and School Psychology, at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex, site of the Safety and Security Symposium

IASD Superintendent Mike Vuckovich developed the program, which he designed to be “out of the box thinking” on this topic—beyond a call for more security guards, alarms, or other physical infrastructures designed to provide barriers to persons seeking to do harm.

“I believe we can be preventative in our work,” he said. “As a society, we need to work to develop a safe, caring environment for our children and teach our children that feelings are meaningful and mentionable.

“Within this duty is a need to teach our children how to express themselves in a clear and articulate manner, and how to control their emotions to live a healthy and happy life,” Vuckovich said. “Our children need those social and emotional skills, and we need to be able to have an honest conversation about these needs, meeting our children where they are.

“As a leader in this district, I feel I have a responsibility to educate staff and community about what trauma means, and the importance of how to help our children have a healthier way of looking at themselves and interacting with others.”

Timothy Runge

Tim Runge, Department of Educational and School Psychology

Vuckovich has worked with IUP Department of Educational and School Psychology faculty member Timothy Runge for the past several years (prior to Vuckovich's work in the Indiana district), and invited Runge to be part of the planning team for the program.

“Dr. Runge is one of the best in the nation when it comes to socio-emotional learning, positive school behaviors, and interventions and support,” Vuckovich said.

Runge, who has been at IUP for the past 11 years following work at PaTTAN, noted that approximately 20 percent of all youth have untreated mental health needs.

“The issue of security and safety in schools includes both physical security and the recognition of the need to teach social and emotion learning, as well as provide mental health services for children,” Runge said.

“My hope is that people leave the symposium realizing that school safety must be a comprehensive approach that includes mental health services for children. We cannot ignore the mental health needs that are being untreated.”

Daniel Lee

Daniel Lee, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice

The conference begins with registration from 8:00 to 8:30 a.m. with opening welcome at 8:30 a.m. featuring IUP graduate Gerald Zahorchak, former Pennsylvania Secretary of Education. There are four breakout sessions: 9:15 to 10:30 a.m.; 10:45 a.m. to noon; 1:30 to 2:45 p.m. and 3:00 to 4:15 p.m. Several programs are repeated during the day. Lunch is on your own.

Runge will present “10 Years of Implementing School-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports: Positive Outcomes for Students, Schools, and Communities.” He will be joined by the IUP faculty that includes:

  • Daniel Lee (Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice), “Preventing Misbehavior through School Climate and Culture”
  • Mark McGowan (Department of Educational and School Psychology), “School Violence: Assessing Threats and Managing Risk”
  • Courtney McLaughlin (Department of Educational and School Psychology), “Navigating Adolescent Use of Snaps, Likes, Hashtags, Ephemeral Posts, and Augmented Reality for Professionals in the Schools”
Mark McGowan

Mark McGowan, Department of Educational and School Psychology

Additional presentations and presenters include:

  • “Boosting Security: School Resource Officers, School Police Officers, Security Guards, and Arming Staff,” Ronald Repak, attorney, Beard Legal Group
  • “Active Shooter: What Would You Do?” Robert Fatula, Gittings Security
  • “Suicide in the School: Safe to Say is Great, But Safe to Say What?” Ralph May, Community Guidance Center
  • “Community Responses to School Safety Threats,” Sara Ross, executive director, Indiana County Children and Youth Services
  • “The Ethical Educator and Act 126 Mandate,” Shane Crosby, executive director, Standards Practice Commission
    “Policy, Procedure, and Documentation—What Should I Know for School Safety and Security?” Heather Masshardt, director of policy services, Pennsylvania School Boards Association
  • “From Interest to Commitment—What It Takes to Build a Successful Fidelity-Based PBIS Framework via the PAPBS Network,” Kathryn Poggi, consultant, PaTTAN
  • “FEMA Certification for School Districts,” John Pividori, deputy director, Indiana County Emergency Management
  • Courtney McLaughlin

    Courtney McLaughlin, Department of Educational and School Psychology

  • “A ‘Soft' Solution to a Hard Problem,” Amy Moritz, strategic partnership managing coordinator, Center for Safe Schools
  • “Understanding and Preparing for Active Shooter/Armed Intruder Incidents,” Trooper Clifford Greenfield, Pennsylvania State Police
  • “‘He Just Won't Sit Still'—Unlocking the Secret to Identifying and Managing Mental Health Conditions in Children,” Michelle Barnhart, Community Guidance Center
  • “The Science of Addiction and Recovery,” Mike Krafick, certified recovery specialist, Armstrong Indiana Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission
  • Refresher training on “Safe2Say Something,” Attorney General's Office
  • “The Why, What and Where of School Violence: A Theoretical Perspective,” Lou Ann Gray, crisis coordinator, the Open Door, and Courtney Anderson, IUP PhD student, Administrative and Leadership Studies
  • “What Does Trauma Have to Do With It? Understanding the Impact of Trauma Across Settings,” Lexi Miller, licensed clinical social worker, Community Guidance Center, and Trish Stewart, Community Guidance Center
  • “Response to School Threats,” Patrick Dougherty, Indiana County District Attorney
  • “Social Media 101,” Phillip Little, Attorney General's Office
  • “Advancing as Cultural Responsive Educators,” Michelle Nutter, Attorney General's Office