On Sept. 25, Justin Hartranft, 38, chased students of Dieruff High School with a knife before being arrested by the Allentown Police Department.
“In the event of a crisis or any kind of situation that impacts our students, we have counseling, mental health services in the guidance department,” said Melissa Reese, communications manager of the Allentown School District. “If something truly serious does happen, we have a crisis-response team. We’ll reassign counselors and school psychologists to go in and be there for not only the students, but their families as well.”
A recent example of this is the 3 a.m. fire that destroyed half a block of row homes in Allentown on Oct. 20.
Reese said Dieruff High School has made efforts to ensure that students who were affected by the blaze are receiving support. The principals of the district, as well as school psychologists and guidance counselors, have been in contact with impacted families.
Allentown School District’s “Critical Incident Protocol” divides emergency responsibilities among school staff, and the protocol came into play in both the recent fire and the Dieruff knife incident.
“There’s that pipeline that delineates exactly who gets contacted when and how it all rolls out — it’s pretty much a well-oiled machine,” Reese said.
Keith Falco is the director of operations for Allentown School District, and he is responsible for a smooth process when incidents occur.
“That protocol lists several different events,” Falco said. “If it was reported that a student was accosted on the way to school, that call will come to me.”
Falco said the school district has direct contact to the local law enforcement.
Six law enforcement officers are stationed in each of Allentown School District’s secondary schools, and if students experience anything walking to or from school — like an overly friendly stranger or a following car — they have immediate access to the police force.
“It could be literally seconds between a notification to us and a response by the Allentown Police Department,” Falko said.
Robert Smith, Jr., representative for the Allentown School District, detailed what these protective measures look like on a day-to-day basis.
Smith said there are resource offices in every high school and middle school, and police officers are stationed in the area. He said with 3000 students in one place at the same time, crowd control is needed.
Any visitors in the school are monitored, Reese said.
The students in the elementary school perceive the Allentown police officers as “good people,” Smith said. He said the school district helps foster the relationship between the students and the police department through a basketball game.
“We’re very lucky,” Smith said. “Very rarely hear anything about anything happening, thank God.”