PASD distributes locker locks to students

The district and its security contractor say the locks will protect students' possessions and prevent locker misuse

Lockers+line+the+upstairs+hallway%3B+some+are+locked%2C+some+are+not.

Emmet Jamieson

Lockers line the upstairs hallway; some are locked, some are not.

When senior Alec Greenblatt walked into homeroom on the first day of school, he saw a stack of forms and his class schedule just like he had the year before. Something new sat on top of his papers this year, though: a combination lock.

“I wasn’t happy [to see it] because I don’t know how to work a lock very well,” said Greenblatt, who said he hadn’t used a combination lock since middle school. “I knew it was going to take more time to get from class to class.”

The Punxsutawney Area School District distributed locker locks to students in fifth through twelfth grades this year. The district purchased the locks from local wholesaler Frank Roberts & Sons. Jeff Long, the high school principal, said the district gave students locks this year because their security contractor, Rain Public Planning, recommended it.

Rain Public Planning is a security planning company based in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania. Garret Rain, the company’s proprietor, said he inspects the district’s buildings and suggests security measures to shore up their weak points. 

Long said the gates at the campus entrances, the swipe cards teachers use to access the building and the photo ID requirement for visitors all came from Rain’s counsel. Rain also suggested concrete bollards at the entrance to prevent car ramming attacks. The district has already installed them at the elementary school, and Long said it will install them at the high school soon. 

Rain said he recommends schools use locks so they can monitor who uses each locker. If a school keeps its lockers unlocked, he said, students can misuse them more easily. 

“If I’m the local pot dealer, would it be wise for me to keep my stash in my locker or somebody else’s locker?” Rain said. “And if I’m a drug dealer, part of my job might involve violence, so I might need a knife or gun. Where am I going to keep it? Not in my locker. I’ll keep it in somebody else’s.”

Frank Wittenburg, PAHS’s resource officer, grew up in Philadelphia, where he said school lockers were always locked. He said distributing locks was “one of the smarter things the school has done” and will most likely make his job easier. He added that protecting valuables like money or laptops was another reason the district gave out locks.

Senior Holly Hartman said she doesn’t lock her locker during the school day, only overnight. Greenblatt said he also typically doesn’t.

“I’m either making it look like it’s on my locker, or I’m just putting it on top of my locker so I don’t get yelled at,” he said.

Rain said security inevitably carries a degree of inconvenience. He said people can either endure it to protect themselves or ignore it and leave themselves exposed. He added that those who don’t protect themselves are responsible if something happens. 

 “The real one who suffers by not wearing a seatbelt is the person who doesn’t when they’re in a crash,” Rain said. “The same is true with locking your locker. When your favorite coat or cell phone gets stolen, you’re the one that ends up suffering.”

Long said using the locks is required, but he said he won’t punish students for not using them. He said they will be held accountable for “any issues that come about by not locking,” though.

He added that the district is open to students’ comments on the locks and will adjust policy to suit how the locks mesh with student life.

“It’s a snafu because nobody’s ever had to use the four minutes between classes to unlock a lock and lock it back up,” Long said. “We’re playing it by ear right now, and then we’re going to change procedure based on that.”