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Schools tighten security during graduation



(May 28) A high school graduation ceremony is not the place to pull a prank or cause a scene, county school officials warned Thursday.

"Things are just a little too tense this year after the recent events around the nation and in our own state. We will not tolerate any foolishness," said Robert E. Kite, Harrison County school superintendent.

Harrison County joins school districts throughout the area that will be beefing up security during high school commencement ceremonies. Lewis, Upshur and several Harrison County schools will hold graduations this evening, with others to follow on Saturday through Monday.

"We intend to make the graduations as safe as possible and are taking extra precautions this year to ensure that the evening turns out well for everyone," Kite said.

Administrators have become skittish after last week's fatal shooting at an Oregon high school and the arrest of two teenagers who planned to disrupt the St. Mary's High School graduation with a homemade explosive device.

Officials at Robert C. Byrd High School will do a sweep of the building before the ceremony begins, and plain-clothes police officers will be in the audience.

The entrance to the gymnasium will be monitored with police on hand with metal detectors if there are any concerns, said Leon Pilewski, RCB's principal.

"We've never had any problems and don't expect any misbehavior. This is an honor for our students and we know they look forward to this event," Pilewski said.

Grafton High School will be holding its ceremony on the football field Monday evening, a concern for school officials in Taylor County.

"The St. Mary's incident is certainly making us stop and take a look at how we normally do things. But we intend to go on with the graduation as planned," said Kermit "Butch" Bias, Taylor superintendent.

Doddridge County has beefed up its security, not only for the graduation ceremony but for all of its schools.

"We are taking this very seriously and have made attempts to beef up security at all our schools for the remainder of the year," said Ron Nichols, Doddridge County superintendent.

The Lewis County Board of Education is working with the sheriff's department to have police officers at school all day today to avoid any problems.

"With a deputy on duty and the school secured, the chances of vandalism or other problems is greatly reduced," said Joseph Mace, superintendent.

The Lewis County High School is equipped with metal detectors, but Mace said they are not used on a regular basis.

As of Thursday, no decision had been made about using them for the indoor graduation ceremony.

"After the latest developments around the country, I think this is something we'll be discussing at our next board meeting," he said.