A Message From Our Superintendent

RASD Superintendent Update

Topic: School Safety and Security

March 29, 2023

Dear RASD Students, Families and Community,

As many of you are aware, the Covenant School in Nashville, Tennessee experienced a tragic school shooting on Monday. As a school community, our thoughts and prayers are with the school staff, students, families and communities that the Covenant School serves.

Once again, this tragedy brings to the for front opinions and strategies for dealing with such horrific acts. However today, it brought “swat calls” related to threats of school shootings or acts of violence across dozens of PA public schools.  The Ridgway Area School District was NOT the recipient of such calls.

PDE shared the following with school superintendents today via email:

“the Pennsylvania State Police announced that it is investigating a series of phone calls made to 9-1-1 centers about schools across the Commonwealth alleging threats of active shooter situations or bomb threats. So far, all claims in these calls have been determined to be false. The Pennsylvania Department of Education is working collaboratively with our school safety partners at the Pennsylvania State Police regarding these so-called “swatting” incidents, which present a disruption to the learning environment in our schools and impact the overall educational atmosphere of our communities. The Pennsylvania State Police continues to investigate, and the safety of students, staff, and our school communities is the top priority as we work across agencies to support our local school entities managing these incidents. The Pennsylvania Department of Education encourages all school entities and communities to follow the recommendations of the Pennsylvania State Police and local law enforcement agencies and continue to adhere to all school  safety protocols regarding any potential threat to the safety of students and staff.”      

RASD worked with local law enforcement and neighboring districts to communicate and develop a common strategic response if such a SWAT call was received. Elk County PSP advised RASD to treat all such calls as an imminent threat. RASD administration reviewed threat response strategies (lockdowns) and will continue to work with law enforcement to ensure the health, safety and welfare of all students and staff. The District appreciates the law enforcement presence on our campuses today and we wish to ensure everyone that perpetrators of “SWAT” calls will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Preventing an act of violence is our greatest strategy for keeping our schools and community safe. YOU are instrumental in prevention. WE are grateful to have engaged students, staff, families and a community who immediately report concerns to the appropriate authorities. Please continue to be vigilant in your efforts. I have included RASD’s threat reporting protocol for you to review and use. TOGETHER we can keep our schools and community safe.

RASD Superintendent Update

February 3, 2023

Dear RASD Families and Community,

The safety of students, staff, visitors and the community is our District’s top priority. With an increase in school safety threats across the Commonwealth, the District wanted to remind everyone about local safety procedures and mechanisms related to safe schools.  

Attached you will find two important documents that will help you understand safety and security in your child’s schools.

(1) RASD Bullying and Unlawful Harassment Information: This document defines bullying; identifies prevention strategies (which is a home and school responsibility); identifies intervention strategies and outlines the procedures that are followed when bullying is a concern or is reported. 

(2) District Emergency Operation Plan: Non-Active Shooter/School Safety Threat: This document outlines the District’s communication procedures for a non-active threat. You are a team player in keeping our schools safe. If you see something, say something! Report any threat immediately, do not try to determine the credibility of the threat. RASD utilizes the Elk County Non-Active School Safety Threat Report Form. When an individual makes a threat against the school or students, the Non-Active School Safety Threat Report Form is completed by the principal, sent directly to the Superintendent, and is forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office. The District Attorney requests an immediate police investigation of the matter to determine if the threat is credible and imminent. RASD is extremely grateful to the Beau Grove, Elk County DA for his diligence in regards to this safety process. 

In addition, RASD has trained students and staff on S2SS and has integrated network tools to provide for the enhanced safety of our users on our District network and across District devices.

Safe2Say (S2SS): S2SS is an anonymous reporting tool established by the PA Attorney General’s Office to enable community members, students, parents, etc. to report school and community safety concerns. 

Technology: RASD utilizes both Lanschool and Bark to ensure that our students and staff are safe online. Lanschool is a tool that allows teachers to actively monitor and supervise student Internet access and use while at school. Bark protects students on RASD devices and networks. Bark detects student Internet access or engagement with bullying, sexual harassment, suicide, weapons, drugs, terrorsitic threats etc. Bark has established a hierarchy of concerning behaviors by users. If Bark detects a heightened concern, the building principal is notified by phone, otherwise principals are sent an email. Principals take immediate action on a case by case basis and within the context of school policies and procedures. In addition, the RASD network is protected by a Barracuda firewall, which filters and blocks inappropriate content from getting into the hands of our users. 

Finally, at the start of the 22-23 school year, RASD conducted an informal internal safety and security assessment with the staff, administration and local law enforcement. This assessment resulted in the District taking further steps to upgrade several physical safety features and procedures at both campuses, including enhanced door locking mechanisms, cameras, exterior surveillance and lighting. These upgrades will continue. Procedurally, reminders were provided to staff and students in regards to personal actions that they can take to make our schools safer. These actions included being observant and situationally aware – know your surroundings; not propping doors; checking doors upon entering and exiting; and if you see something, say something. Administration and staff also participated in various safety trainings during the Fall and Winter In-Services: Run, Hide, Fight; NIMS Incident Management (administration and counselors); situational awareness; first aid/CPR/AED and stop the bleed; Epi Pen training; and Seizure training.    

At the end of February/beginning of March, RASD will be participating in a formal Risk and Vulnerability Assessment with the Pennsylvania State Police. Following this formal state assessment, RASD will continue to enhance safety and security protocols and physical safety strategies based on the recommendations provided.

Your input on school safety is important to us as we develop/enhance our policies and procedures. If you have suggestions or ideas on how to improve the safety of our schools for our students and staff, please email the superintendent at  mcmahonheather@rasd.us.  Thank you for always doing your part to keep our students safe! We truly appreciate it.  



Heather A. McMahon-Vargas, Superintendent