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W.Va. students active in preventing violence at school

by Jennifer Biller

STAFF WRITER

It can happen anywhere -- even here.

That's what students and school officials are saying about the shooting at Santana High School on Monday near San Diego, Calif., where a freshman allegedly gunned down fellow students.

"It shocks me to think kids our own age have done this," said Josh Shingleton, a senior at Robert C. Byrd in Clarksburg. "This is just so sad. I wish we could prevent these things from happening."

If students hear of a potential threat, they shouldn't just ignore it, said Principal Leon Pilewski at RCB.

"Communication is the key. If students know or hear something, they should come to an administrator, teacher or counselor and we'll check it out," he said. "None of these violent events have occurred, that I know of, without someone close to the person knowing about it."

Student Peggie Harris, a junior at RCB, says she feels safe at her school.

"We have security cameras in every hallway, but there is always a possibility of violence," she said. "If I heard something I would definitely tell someone. That's not something kids should joke about."

Students in Harrison County and across the state are turning to the Safe School Helpline to help prevent school violence. In the hallways at RCB, pamphlets and magnets are on display with the hotline's telephone number to report threats.

"Students can call the Safe Schools Helpline toll free number and report whatever they've heard and be assured they'll remain anonymous," said William Ashcraft, assistant superintendent of Harrison County Schools. "Then the schools follow up on the information and we investigate."

Ashcraft said the county has received tips from the helpline about bomb threats and other types of rumors which they have investigated.

Security cameras are another device that can be used to help deter violence and provide another set of eyes where teachers aren't available, Ashcraft said.

All the high schools in Harrison County have security cameras installed and the middle schools are currently being equipped with cameras, he said. The elementary schools are scheduled to receive the security equipment next year, he added.

Staff writer Jennifer Biller can be reached at 626-1449 or jbiller@exponent-telegram.com.

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