PPS board member calls out superintendent, 11 Investigates school security

PITTSBURGH — After the second fatal shooting outside Oliver Academy in 16 months, a Pittsburgh Public Schools board member is lashing out at the superintendent.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE >>> Student shot, killed outside Pittsburgh’s Oliver Citywide Academy; 15-year-old charged

If things don’t change, Kevin Carter said the superintendent should resign.

“This most recent shooting is the third egregiously violent incident at Oliver Citywide on the watch of Superintendent Walters and this administration. Given the lack of support for the school and the constant leadership changes at the school, I do not have faith in the District’s ability to keep our staff and students safe.  As the Board Representative for Oliver, the superintendent has not called me, checked in, or responded to my requests for information regarding the concerns of my parents, students, and community members. There seems to be a complete lack of communication and forthrightness from this administration on issues of safety and security. If they were serious about bringing resolve, the violence at that school would have ended with the first incident. For each incident that has occurred, there always seem to be more questions than answers which the Superintendent refuses to provide.

“I have no power to demand answers as an individual board member. I believe the time has come for the public to put pressure on this board to hold the Superintendent accountable. By not keeping our students safe - he has failed in his responsibilities as the leader of this school district. He must deliver a plan that offers solutions, or he must step aside so we can find a leader who can. There is no time for complacency and inaction, these are serious issues, and they must be swiftly addressed. Literally, the lives of our children depend on it. I am mourning this tragedy and call on officials at all levels of government to get serious about youth violence. My prayers are with the families and people affected by another senseless shooting,” said Carter, who represents the Oliver area.

Carter isn’t the only one demanding answers.

‘The trauma is too much’: Teacher’s union leader reacts to shooting death of Oliver Citywide student

The mother of the 15-year-old killed outside Oliver Academy Wednesday morning wants to know exactly what security measures were in place when her son arrived at the school.

RELATED >>> Parents of 15-year-old killed at Oliver Citywide Academy speak out, demand accountability

“I want to know where security was at that time. I thought security was there when they arrive and at dismissal time. That’s what I want to know. This is just ridiculous. This has got to stop. This is terrible,” said Erin Krall, the mother of Derek Harris Jr., who was shot and killed outside Oliver.

The Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent confirmed Wednesday afternoon that there was one security guard in the school at the time.

“There was a school security person there,” said Superintendent, Wayne Walters.

Channel 11 News learned that three security guards work at Oliver.

But it’s unclear how many were at the school and where they were located at the time of the shooting.

No school police officers were there at the time.

Channel 11 has learned that there are only eight officers currently working. That’s down from nearly 30 several years ago.

Those officers cover 52 buildings in the district.

And for the past year or so, school police have come under fire from some board members who said police contribute to the classroom-to-prison pipeline and unfairly target African Americans.

At a meeting a couple of months ago, one board member spoke out against police.

“There are still students that are triggered and traumatized by even the presence of police officers and they play a really critical role in our school that I think there are other roles we could invest our money in,” said board member, Devon Taliaferro.

Other board members have voiced support for more school police.

So has the teachers’ union.

Earle: When you see stuff like this happen does that say time out we need them?

Nina Esposito-Visgitis: We’ve always known that our teachers have always known that. We took a poll and 97% of teachers supported police, but some members of the school board are not listening.

And the union also believes that school police should be allowed to carry weapons.

Earle reached out to the superintendent and some of those board members who oppose school police but as of this report, he had not heard back from them.

Earle did talk to Mayor Ed Gainey Thursday about the security and safety issues.

He declined to answer those questions, referring them to the superintendent.

But Gainey said he’s working to provide young people an alternative to the violence.

He said he’s working with non-profits to launch programs aimed at helping young people and he said he’s opening rec centers to provide activities.

“It’s not just policing. They play a part. It’s not just security. They play a part. We also got to change the culture. Part of changing the culture is to be able to provide alternative means,”  Gainey said.

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